Published 12:02 p.m. ET May 4, 2018
In his Your Turn piece of April 22, Chemung County Treasurer Joseph Sartori began by quoting Mark Twain, who wrote, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” He then attempted to deflect all of the legitimate questions and concerns raised by Christina Sonsire in her Your Turn piece of April 15 regarding County Executive Tom Santulli’s proposed Council of Governments.
There is another Mark Twain quote that seems to be quite relevant here: “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”
Mr. Sartori claims that Ms. Sonsire is wrong to state that the City of Elmira would not be allowed to participate in the proposed Council of Governments. However, the fact is, and Ms. Sonsire has shared the videotape of Mr. Santulli’s presentation as irrefutable proof, that the County Executive stated in no uncertain terms that “the city will not be included in this … we’ve done everything for the city we can do; now they’ve got to do something for themselves.” Those words speak for themselves; there is no room for ambiguity in his intent, despite what Mr. Sartori would have you believe.
Mr. Sartori claims that Ms. Sonsire is wrong to state that the Town of Horseheads levied a property tax for the first time in 30 years. He suggests that this is a “story.” However, it is a fact supported by Town Supervisor Mike Edwards’ public statement that the tax was imposed “because of the redistribution of sales tax that the county did.” Again, those words speak for themselves, and no amount of distortion will change the facts.
Mr. Sartori claims that Ms. Sonsire attributed the decision by the Town of Chemung to lay off its entire highway department to lost sales tax revenue. However, a review of the facts reveals that Ms. Sonsire never made a connection of the layoff to the loss of sales tax revenue. Instead, she referenced that the town’s decision had been made “due to a lack of funds.” Sartori further attempted to distort the facts by stating that the Town of Chemung “had over 60 percent of its annual expenditures held in reserve at the end of 2016.” What he fails to mention is that many municipalities show a larger reserve at the end of the year as they receive monies that are already allocated as expenditures for the upcoming year. And what does a balance at the end of 2016 have to do with a decision made in 2018?
Mr. Sartori claims that Ms. Sonsire is troubled by the fact that under the proposed Council of Governments, “a municipality would have to truly be in need.” However, the “catch” that troubles Ms. Sonsire is not only the fact that Elmira was not included, but also the fact that “the plan would dictate how projects are funded.”
Mr. Sartori insists that the under the proposed Council of Governments, municipalities would not be able to “waste reserves in a frivolous manner.” However, he provides no specific evidence of fiscal mismanagement. On the contrary, insisting that municipalities always borrow for capital projects leads to increased debt and higher costs to pay interest on that debt. It is precisely this kind of thinking that results in the county spending approximately $100,000 annually to pay off a loan to fund the arena that, at this point, has no team and may close completely if a buyer is not found.
Unfortunately for many officials of our Chemung County government, as Mark Twain also wrote, “Facts are stubborn.” No amount of distortion, denial or defensiveness will change the facts.
Anthony Pucci is a resident of the Town of Veteran.