Don't be misled by a few county legislators and business people who say that the new charter will make Niagara County government more efficient. In truth, it will create more government, increasing the tax burden on hard-working, overtaxed residents of Niagara County. I have reviewed the draft charter many times over the past five months, and I'm writing this letter to explain some of the major reasons why we should vote no on this new county charter:
Reputable government leaders tell us that it will cost about $500,000 for a county executive to properly staff the office to execute their duties. These leaders, our county treasurer and town supervisors in Niagara County, know from experience how to staff an office to properly complete tasks.
The County Legislature will not estimate how much it will cost to run the executive office. They say that the executive salary of $85,000 is a trade-off with reducing the number of legislators. Since the legislator salary is about $15,000, this trade-off still costs the taxpayers an additional $25,000. So where is the cost savings? It seems the charter supporters do not want the taxpayers to know the cost of office operations, staffing, salaries and benefits.
Reducing the size of the County Legislature and lengthening legislators' terms to four years will cut down our representation in county government. If each legislator represents a couple thousand more people, they will be separated more from the individual taxpayers, and taxpayers will get less feedback from their representative legislator. With larger districts and a four-year term, legislators will justify raising their part-time salary of $15,000 per year.
If the legislators' term of office was extended to four years, they would be more likely to support a tax increase early in their term, hoping that we would forget about it in three years or so when they are up for re-election. The legislators' terms should remain at two years so we can still hold them accountable for our tax dollars.
The charter has sections written to set up many different departments. As taxpayers, we would pay a lot more for new directors, assistants, staff employees and benefits. One example is the tourism department. This new department would significantly raise our taxes to pay for the tourism industry and not provide services to the Niagara County taxpayers.
Every county that has an executive has an 8 percent sales tax to help pay for government expenses. Residents in these counties pay about $593 per capita, while in Niagara County we pay only $359 per capita without an executive.
This county charter is being pushed upon us because the elected officials in the cities and Niagara County cannot manage their money. They want to take money from the towns, which have elected representatives who know how to keep expenses down and manage and account for their money.
County legislators should listen and learn from town supervisors instead of trying to take from them. Vote no on the charter Nov. 6 and make our legislators responsible for working with cities, towns and villages to make Niagara County government more efficient.
JOHN A. SACCO JR.