1. I absolutely support the downsizing and consolidation of our local governments and school districts. As a county of approximately 135,000 people, we have nearly 40 different towns, villages and cities and another 18 different school districts, each with their own bureaucracy, inherent higher costs and inefficiency. According to a recently released NYS study, we have nearly 230 different taxing districts in Chautauqua County making taxpayers suffer some of the highest local property taxes in the nation. This study estimated local government consolidation could save between 5 and 22% in property taxes. For this community to grow and prosper, we need to lower taxes, better coordinate and improve government services.
And just as importantly, this consolidation will also lead to increased competition for local elected positions. Consider this upcoming election, 40% of the county legislators have no opponents! As a democracy, we should be concerned when so many of our county, village, town, city and school board elected officials run unopposed in their upcoming elections. More competition for local elected offices makes for better performance and representation. Without an opponent, an elected official does not need to "knock on voters' doors" nor listen to their constituents. And more local government elected officials does not necessarily lead to better government.
I also believe consolidating school districts would lead to lower overall costs in school construction, building maintenance, athletic complexes and administration. Merging school districts would also provide better overall educational opportunities for our students.
I would support lowering the County Legislature size to approximately 15 members. It will save up to $100,000 per year and make each legislator represent approximately 9,000 people. The redistricting plan could be drawn up by a non-partisan panel selected from the community by the Legislature and would require a two-thirds majority vote of the Legislature to approve panel members and the redistricting plan. This hopefully will prevent gerrymandering and significant political party imbalances in individual districts.
2. I would vote for a county law to post all county bids online so that taxpayers can see the top three bids and who was awarded the bid.