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January 4, 2010

My Turn: Tough financial times will make our community more important to us

(Continued)

The budget has been balanced, however, by taking almost $900,000 from savings (reserves) and reducing physical plant expenses, practices that cannot continue.

We will confront difficult issues as the current year develops and we begin financial planning for 2011. Already the state has "delayed" our next support payment by almost $230,000.

In my view, we must confront issues such as city/town consolidation, consistent cost-sharing agreements with our not-for-profit organizations, service reductions and health care benefit costs _ issues that have been painful to discuss in the past.

Thirteen years ago, in 1996, for example, a blue-ribbon task force of city and town government and community leaders worked, with staff support from the Center for Economic and Community Development at the State University College at Oneonta, to develop a plan for increasing integration of services leading to consolidation of the two governments.

All concerned agreed with the plan, but only about 25 percent of the recommendations have been implemented. Consolidation offers long-term cost reductions and revenue enhancements. We would be foolish not to pursue them. I will ask my colleagues in both city and town governments to reopen discussions about consolidation.

So, Oneonta faces difficult times. So, too, does every other community in Upstate New York and across the country. We deal with these issues, however, from strength; unusual strength, for that matter.

Our colleges enrich our lives and, despite their challenges, are stable major employers. The Fox/Bassett affiliation ensures high-quality, local health care far into the future. Our schools are in excellent shape, and the city's infrastructure is, with the exception of our streets, in good condition. We have financial reserves that can cushion us in the short-term while being maintained at adequate levels.

Oneonta is perfectly located in the midst of beautiful surroundings and only an hour's drive from two busy airports. Businesses such as Cleinman Performance Partners and SportTech are growing. We have an attractive and increasingly vibrant downtown with such new businesses as Capresso, Karma, The Green Toad and The Fiesta Grill.

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