To be honest and succinct, scolding Albany County’s lawmakers is getting a bit old.
Anyone hoping 2013 would be the year for substantive changes to the quagmire that is county finances will have to wait a little longer, as a large majority of the body’s 39 lawmakers boldly stepped up to the plate on Monday, Dec. 3, gave a hearty windup and kicked the can down the road for yet another year.
You can read the details on the front page this week. In short, the county passed a $568 million budget that will raise the tax levy 7.6 percent. This is well above the state tax cap and marks the second year running the county has elected to exceed it. It’s also the second year some lawmakers have considered a marginal decrease in the proposed tax hike from “stratospheric” to “untenably high” to be some sort of victory worthy of backslapping.
All but 12 county legislators thought it fine to exceed the tax cap, and to be fair perhaps that was necessary. Then all but 11 found the 2013 budget on the table to be to their liking which, and let’s be fair again, shirks their responsibilities as lawmakers by leaving several gaping policy holes.
Most important is the matter of the nursing home. The legislature elected once again to punt on this most vital of issues, deciding (once again) it is easier to defer rather than engage in the tricky process of doing something. Anything.
County Executive Dan McCoy was correct in his laying out of the options for the nursing home: privatization, closure, construction of a new home or continuing along on the present course. The legislature has had years to study this issue, knowing full well the options.
In Saratoga County, a committee was formed to study the issues surrounding the county nursing home, and it came to a decision of privatization that was then inserted into the 2013 budget (which has not yet been adopted). This was done over the course of roughly a year. How many years does Albany County need to flip through the same spreadsheets and reports on its nursing home, over and over again?
Making hard decisions is… well, hard. But that’s the sort of territory that comes with seeking an office whose chief charge is making decisions. You might wonder, though, when watching the Albany County Legislature.
Well, there’s always next year.