By Christian W. Peck
Public Information Officer
Niagara County Public Information Office
Niagara County Legislature Chairman Wm. Keith McNall, R-Lockport, delivered a policy-heavy State of the County address Tuesday, as he presided over his second meeting since succeeding longtime Legislature Chairman William L. Ross of Wheatfield.
"You should feel pride in knowing that this government's policies are working," McNall told an assemblage that included fellow lawmakers, county department heads and members of the public. "Our county government has succeeded because our departments have implemented the policies advocated by this body."
The annual policy speech clocked in at approximately 26 minutes.
McNall pointed to outgoing County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz's record of producing on-time budgets that were always under the New York state tax cap as a significant achievement, and stressed the need for fiscally prudent measures as county management draws up its 2017 budget plans.
"Niagara County must continue to use the same austere guideposts that have gotten us to this point if we are to remain prosperous," McNall told the attentive audience. "We should continue our year-long budget review process, which is the backbone of our cost containment efforts and the efficient delivery of services."
McNall directly challenged the county's budget office to produce a 2017 budget that was both under the state tax cap and below the rate of inflation.
The new chairman also urged fellow lawmakers to move swiftly in replacing Glatz, whose resignation from office becomes effective at the end of March.
"It is critical that we find an individual that brings the right combination of experience, leadership and vision to be our partner in administering this county government," McNall said. "That person must bring several goals to fruition, beginning with delivering yet another budget that is under the New York state tax cap, that cuts frivolous expenditures and waste, that fulfills our promises to our most vulnerable populations, that furthers the goal of private sector economic investment in our county, and that honors our taxpayers' sacrifices."
The Lockport lawmaker also urged a review of top appointed government leadership to ensure policymaking continues to garner results, with many department heads having spent more than a decade in office.
"Our next county manager must also have a team committed to this legislature's vision for our county's future, and, for that reason, we must initiate a careful examination of the staffing of our top government leadership posts," McNall told county lawmakers. "We must ensure the right people are doing the right work, and have the right vision and the right leadership skills to make that vision a reality."
With county lawmakers poised to vote their approval of a member-approved CSEA contract after his speech, McNall also urged fairness to labor and taxpayers in future contract negotiations and the way county government goes about its business, while praising progress in obtaining employee contributions to the cost of health care.
"Our workforce deserves the security of understanding where wages and benefits will stand over the next few years. So do we, who are charged with enacting responsible annual budgets," McNall said. "This county has succeeded in achieving fair and mutually agreeable terms with its two largest labor unions. The county manager worked to secure labor agreements that were also fair to the most important group of all: our taxpayers."
McNall, who issued several policy directives to department heads, stated several key principles had always animated county policymaking, and challenged government leaders with continuing to generate the fiscally conservative policies voters demanded at the polls.
"A year ago, my honorable predecessor, Bill Ross, told you all - and this is a direct quote: 'The County Legislature believes in smaller government, less spending and lower taxes.' We still do," McNall said. "Of course, that commitment won't matter if we don't articulate it and, moreover, act upon it."