Dubbing himself “a disruptor in government” and proud of it, Ulster County executive Mike Hein has proposed a fundamental but unspecified reordering of how municipalities provide services.
“If we are to be completely honest with our taxpayers,” Hein told an audience of more than 200 at his eighth annual state-of-the-county address at Ulster County Community College last Tuesday night, “the truth is the current system is totally unsustainable, and things have to change. With all the relief we provided [via safety net and election cost takeover], the widespread property-tax reductions that the legislature and I, as well as our citizens, had anticipated did not happen.”
Hein did not mention his administration’s proposal to reduce the county’s share of sales tax to Kingston city government by $1.6 million a year and by $330,000 to the towns, a consequence, his spokespersons have said, of the localities’ failure to reduce taxes after receiving a collective $7 million a year in annual cost relief from the county.
Hein proposed “putting everything on the table,” presumably in negotiations with town, village and city leaders, “and collectively deciding who is best equipped to provide that service.”
“We have to disrupt the entire system,” he declared. “It will collapse if we do not.”
Rochester supervisor Carl Chipman, who was in the audience Tuesday night, said he had had no word from Hein that such a broad sweeping proposal would be offered. He said he thought he knew what it might mean. “I think it was code word for consolidation, but many of the towns are already doing that on their own,” he said.
Hein said the county would compete for a $20-million state grant fund for “reinventing sustainable government.”
Chipman, president of the Ulster County Supervisors and Mayors Association, said the group would discuss Hein’s proposal at its next meeting in Kingston on February 23. Hein will be delivering his state-of-the-county speech to the Ulster Regional Chamber of Commerce breakfast that same morning.
Hein’s 40-minute address touched on most of his campaign themes from last year.