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Geraghty's not spouting buzz-words, he's grinding through the details

With gasoline and food prices skyrocketing while real estate values are sinking, the public is experiencing financial uncertainty. Although this is likely to be a temporary lull before another economic boom, people have justification in their worries over their financial resources and obligations. This year, county residents concerns have turned to the school district and county budgets, with an eye on cutting back any unwarranted expenses to ease their unavoidable burden of taxes. And with the Warren County budget rising from $107.3 million to its present level of $199.7 million in just three years, such concern is sensible. Particularly so, when you consider thats a 30 percent increase over a time period in which the Consumer Price Index rose only 10 percent. Although much of this increase is spiraling Medicaid costs passed onto the county by a state government thats now cutting back its aid, there are solid reasons the county budget deserves thorough examination. Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty was chosen to take on the role of budget officer in January, a time the economy was cratering. Perhaps the other 19 county supervisors enthusiasm for Geraghty taking on the job was partially a matter of avoiding this hot seat. While budget officers in years past have either been relatively passive in their role, or have relied on buzz-words to deliver their familiar expense-cutting sermons, Geraghtys been taking a different approach. Instead of preaching, Geraghtys been relatively quiet. But hes been busy, gathering and compiling data, researching and analyzing what hes uncovered. Soon after he was named budget officer, he asked for a flow chart of all the county personnel, depicting their responsibilities and authority. Since then, hes begun a task of researching job descriptions and evaluating workplace methodology to determine ways to economize or boost efficiency. At county department-head meetings, hes urged the dozens of supervisors to conduct their own research and devise ways to get work accomplished at lower cost. Also, hes distributed a private questionnaire to other supervisors to prompt and gather innovative or perhaps politically-unpopular budget-cutting ideas. In a relatively small county, where politics has played a role in jobs being doled out and those in power have relatives or friends who are working in county jobs its a difficult role to conduct such research and then to advocate for appropriate changes. But apparently, Geraghty is up to the task. Hes urged all department supervisors to trim their current expenditures, not shrink from spending less than their appropriation, and find new ways to cut back. Hes stressed that there will be rewards for efficiency instead of largess. Also, he and other county leaders are advocating a training program for department supervisors that will enable them to take a fresh look at how their respective staffs conduct their work, determine workplace efficiency and promote maximum productivity. These steps are a dramatic departure from the past, when merely pontificating about cutting expenses was the norm. Geraghty is grinding through the details in determining how to make county government more efficient, and we applaud these efforts. Thom Randall is editor of The Adirondack Journal. He can be reached at thom@denpubs.com.

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