New Saratoga County board chairman targets fiscal health
SARATOGA COUNTY The newly elected chairman of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors wants to re-examine how county government operates, with an eye toward increasing efficiency and restoring the county’s financial health.
“There’s no question the county has faced big financial challenges, and we’re not out of the woods yet,” Charlton town Supervisor Alan R. Grattidge said in his inaugural speech Wednesday. “Two-thousand-thirteen will be another year of belt-tightening and frugality.”
Grattidge spoke to an audience of about 70 who came to see him sworn in, noting his goal of stabilizing finances, after the county drew down its surplus and then raised property taxes in each of the last two years.
“Our actions this year will set the stage for success down the road,” he said.
Grattidge was elected unanimously at the board’s annual organizational meeting Wednesday in Ballston Spa under a system in which the chairmanship is rotated annually among Republicans who haven’t held the office before.
Grattidge, who was vice chairman in 2012, is succeeding Tom Wood, R-Saratoga, who chaired the board in both 2011 and 2012. The chairman is paid $25,187 annually, about $6,500 more than other board members.
In 2013, Grattidge said he wants county department heads and board committees that oversee them to “think outside the box,” looking at new ways to do business and improve efficiency.
Plans to privatize the county landfill in Northumberland and the Maplewood Manor nursing home in Ballston Spa will keep moving forward, he said. He said selling Maplewood Manor is the best way to protect the quality of care at the county-owned nursing home
“This is the single most important thing we can do to restore the county’s financial health, and it’s the only feasible way we can ensure that Maplewood Manor will continue providing high-quality care for our residents into the future,” he said. “The county simply can’t afford to stay in the nursing home business as we have run it in the past, and we will be placing a high priority on patient care with a future operator.”
Grattidge, 57, who has been Charlton town supervisor since 2006, is a co-owner of Charlton Suburban Services, an excavating and sand and gravel business.
Grattidge was sworn in by former Charlton town Supervisor Fred Acunto, with his wife, Charlotte, and two grown daughters looking on. His father, Walter, was also on hand.
Grattidge named Paul Sausville of Malta as vice-chairman for 2013. That puts Sausville in line to chair the board in 2014, assuming he is re-elected by Malta residents this fall.
Grattidge said he wants the Public Safety Committee, to be chaired by Halfmoon Supervisor Mindy Wormuth, to look for ways to re-organize and economize in departments it oversees. Three of those departments — probation, the public defender and the animal shelter — will have new top administrators sometime in the next few months, due to resignations or pending retirements.
Grattidge said changes in leadership are a good time to consider department restructuring.
He also said county Public Health Department will need to consider how to add environmental enforcement to its duties, and he called for a “top to bottom review” in the Public Works Department, “to see if there are better ways to get things done.”
Public Works, one of the county’s largest departments, maintains 360 miles of county highway and oversees all county buildings.
While noting that the last two years have been a period of financial crisis for the county, Grattidge also highlighted the positive, saying “Saratoga County is the envy of upstate New York, and our commitment is to restore our strong financial position.”
The county has some of the state’s best schools, he said, and a low crime rate. Its 6.4 percent unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the state, as well. The county also has a higher-than-average home ownership rate, he said, and less poverty than the state average.
Grattidge noted that the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant in Malta is the biggest current economic development project in the nation. But even before GlobalFoundries brought nearly 2,000 jobs, the county’s population grew by more than 9 percent — to 220,000 — between 2000 and 2010. It has tripled since 1950.
“People are voting with their feet for Saratoga County’s quality of life,” he said.