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Process needs transparency

November 6, 2012
The Leader Herald

It was disappointing to find out last week that Fulton County's application for state grant funding to look into inefficiencies and possible consolidation of highway departments was denied.

The grant would have covered $90,000 of the cost of a $100,000 study to measure municipal highway efficiency throughout the county. The county scheduled a $100,000 capital project for 2012 to do the study, contingent on grant funding. The county had intended a $10,000 local share. The results of the study could have led to significant savings for taxpayers throughout the county.

Last week, a Board of Supervisors committee had to shelve the idea - for this year anyway - after finding out Fulton County was not one of the 21 applicants selected for a total of $4 million in grants.

The program is called the Local Government Efficiency grants and is billed as "part of the governor's agenda to right-size government and address the cost-drivers that for years have made New York's property tax rates among the highest in the nation," according to a news release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office.

Cuomo, from the time he was state attorney general, has been an outspoken proponent of finding ways to eliminate waste through consolidation. We like that kind of thinking, and we like this program.

The process for choosing the winners, however, should be more transparent.

Fulton County supervisors were told last week the state gave no answer for its denial - only encouragement to try again next year.

Fulton County has the second-highest jobless rate in the state. Its home and business owners have been burdened by high property taxes for years. Supervisors also have been vocal in the need for relief from unfunded mandates.

Was there any priority for places such as Fulton County in this grant program - places that have been struggling and need a hand?

If Fulton County is going to be denied, it at least deserves to know why.

Among the grant winners were the Capital Region BOCES, Albany County, the Schenectady City School District and many areas in western New York. The largest grant - $600,000 - went to Marcellus, Onondaga County, for a village, town and school district sewer consolidation.

Fulton County could have used a grant, too. Perhaps it will have better luck next time.



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