TO THE EDITOR: The State Comptroller’s Office recently issued a scathing audit of Franklin County’s finances.
It found the Legislature failed to adopt realistic and financially sustainable budgets, routinely drained reserves to finance operations, didn’t maintain reasonable levels of surplus funds and didn’t develop comprehensive, multi-year financial and capital plans.
The county’s cash balance was so depleted that last May it even took out a “payday loan” of $4 million just to pay its bills on time. The audit concluded that “these declining trends could result in fiscal instability if allowed to continue,” an accounting euphemism for financial meltdown.
State mandates — particularly the county’s share of Medicaid costs — are a large part of the county’s problem. Although a future state takeover of county Medicaid contributions could happen, the gravity of the comptroller’s report makes clear immediate action is required.
The responsibility for this mess lies with the Franklin County Legislature, which under state law is solely responsible for the county’s financial planning and management.
At a minimum, each county legislator should make commitments to:
▶ Work with the OSC to establish a sound budget and financial system.
▶ Put all options on the table, including revenue increases, spending cuts and reductions in the size of government.
▶ Show leadership by taking whatever steps are necessary to restore fiscal health.
▶ Accomplish this in a transparent way that informs, and is informed by, county residents.
▶ Face reality; future mandate relief won’t address the county’s financial challenges.
Finally, the legislature should consider returning the county to a Board of Supervisors model of government.
This could improve representation to county residents, by moving the focus of power from Malone to the level closest to the people: our towns.
TO THE EDITOR: We went to the mall in Plattsburgh to see “Captain Phillips” at the movies, and the theater was very clean and comfortable.