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October 14, 2009

 

Spending, services focus in Legislature race

Incumbent Tony Piombo running against challenger Ray Parker in 2nd Ward

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

If elected to represent the 2nd Ward on the Cortland County Legislature, Republican incumbent Tony Piombo and Democrat Ray Parker both say they would save money by consolidating services and cutting excess spending in county departments.
Parker advocates continuing the county’s austerity plan that was implemented in February and examining mandated and nonmandated services with an eye toward consolidation.
“A lot of people have had a lot of opinions such as selling the (county) recycling center to the J.M. Murray Center. That’s easy to say without knowing what it would take to do so,” Parker said, adding the pros and cons of such a move should be fully analyzed to see if it would yield a savings for the county.
Piombo thinks the county should sit down with officials in Cortlandville and the city to see what services, programs and equipment could be shared.
“If we can consolidate, you’d be surprised how much you can save,” Piombo said, mentioning possibly having one central location for all county residents to come get building or well permits and to pay their taxes and water and sewer bills.
Piombo, who is seeking re-election for a second term, said he has represented his constituents in the 2nd Ward well over the last two years. He says he calls about 30 constituents prior to legislative sessions to ask them which way they want him to vote on issues.
But Parker faults Piombo for not holding ward meetings, as he had said he would prior to being elected in 2007. Parker said he would hold ward meetings every other month.
“I would like to get the constituency involved more. The 2nd Ward has a wealth of knowledge ... and we get their ideas by talking with people,” Parker said.
Parker and Piombo agree controlling taxes and spending are of utmost priority in the next two years. They also agree they do not want to raise the sales tax or cut services offered by the county Area Agency on Aging.
“We need to look at the budget itself, seeing where we can consolidate,” Parker said.
Parker thinks the city and county should explore consolidating plowing services, for example.
Piombo is disturbed by the disparity in wages he read in a recent Cortland Standard article, which stated the average salary of a Cortland County resident is $24,000 while the top city employees cost the city upwards of $80,000 when health insurance and pension costs are added to their salaries.
Piombo used this as an example of irresponsible fiscal practices within the county. He thinks union contracts should be negotiated to possibly lower salaries and health and pension benefits.
Piombo said he is still waiting to hear from County Administrator Scott Schrader about what areas could be cut in various departments, saying he thinks no more than a 3 percent tax increase should be acceptable for 2010.
“We have to see where the fat is, who has too much and who has too little,” Piombo said, reluctant to speak specifically until he hears what cuts Schrader recommends at the next Budget and Finance Committee meeting.
Parker said no tax increase is acceptable until cuts are made within each department.
“Let’s look at the budget and see where can we cut without hurting mandated services before making the easy call of raising taxes,” Parker said.
Parker is a property adjuster for All State Insurance. A Cortland native, Parker served in the military before returning to Cortland where he raised a family. He and his wife, Tiffanie, who is a director at the county Department of Social Services, and his daughter Mya and son Alec live on Hamlin Street.
Parker said he would not serve on any committee where he would face a conflict because of his wife’s job.
Piombo moved to Cortland from Caste Forte, Italy, with his family when he was 7 years old. He owns rental properties in Cortland and said his constituents come first to him and he always responds quickly to their questions.

 

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