Schenectady County

Candidates for county Legislature list issues facing District 2 residents

Three candidates running for election to District 2 of the Schenectady County Legislature on Nov. 8

Three candidates running for election to District 2 of the Schenectady County Legislature on Nov. 8 said high taxes, declining neighborhoods, unfunded retirement mandates and job creation/job training are the most important issues facing their constituents.

Gary Hughes

OFFICE SOUGHT: County Legislator District 2

AGE: 60

BALLOT LINES: Democrat, Working Families, Independence, Conservative

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Graduated SUNY-Oneonta; served on county Legislature since 2004; vice chair, Schenectady County Industrial Development Agency; Board of Trustees, Schenectady County Community College

PERSONAL: Married to Susan with two sons

Jeffrey McDonald

OFFICE SOUGHT: County Legislator District 2

AGE: 32

BALLOT LINES: Democrat, Conservative, Independence, Working Families

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Graduated Mohonasen High School; graduated Northeastern University Boston; county legislator since 2008; licensed professional civil engineer; co-owner/general manager of The Stockade Inn


Patricia Zollinger

OFFICE SOUGHT: County Legislature District 2

AGE: 54

BALLOT LINES: Republican, No New Tax Party

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Bachelor of science degree, computer networks, SUNY-Empire State; associate of science degree, computer science, Schenectady County Community College; graduated Schalmont High School; longtime advocate for city taxpayers

PERSONAL: Widow. two daughters

Democrat Gary Hughes, Democrat Jeffrey McDonald and Republican Patricia Zollinger are seeking two seats on the 15-seat board. Hughes and McDonald are seeking re-election representing the district, which covers the southern half of the city. Zollinger is making her first bid for a seat on the Democrat-controlled county Legislature. Last year she ran unsuccessfully for City Council as a candidate of an independent party that she created.

Terms are for four years. Legislators receive a stipend of $15,499, plus the option of health insurance. The stipend is higher for leadership positions.

This year, nine seats on the 15-seat board are in play. Democrats control 12 of the 15 seats, Republicans two. The lone Conservative on the board caucuses with the Democrats.

The Daily Gazette asked candidates to identify two major issues facing residents of Schenectady County and how they would address them. They were also asked why residents should vote for them.

Gary Hughes

Hughes identified job creation/job training and taxes as the top two issues affecting residents in District 2.

“Jobs are the foundation for a sound local economy,” he said.

He said he will continue efforts to create and retain jobs, undertaken by the county’s “unified economic development team” headed by Ray Gillen, chairman of the Metroplex Development Authority.

“These efforts have created or retained some 5,000 jobs since 2004. Without this effort, Schenectady County would have fared much worse in the current recession,” Hughes said.

In conjunction with job creation, he said he has pushed for new and innovative job training programs, such as the General Electric battery training program at Schenectady County Community College and the expanded workforce development program that SCCC runs at Center City in downtown Schenectady.

Hughes said one way to lower taxes is to streamline county government. The county saves $10 million annually through employee health insurance reforms and has cut its workforce 12 percent since 2004 through attrition, he said.

He added that county property taxes have been cut in four of the past six years and that the 2012 county budget holds the line on property taxes with no increase.

The county is using approximately $9.5 million of its fund balance in 2012 to balance the budget, retaining approximately $40 million in the account for future years.

Hughes said residents should vote for him because he is experienced. “Residents of my district can be assured they’ll continue to get results from me starting on day one,” he said. “I’ve demonstrated through my votes and actions my willingness to be a strong partner with the city to share services and provide county funds for city programs.”

Hughes added that his record on job creation, economic development and streamlining county government speaks for itself. “What’s important to me is helping people,” he said.

Jeffrey McDonald

McDonald said the two most important issues facing residents of his district are the tax burden on homeowners and the decline of the city neighborhoods. He said revitalization of neighborhoods would help expand the tax base and lower the property tax burden.

“I would tackle the neighborhood issues by advocating for county support of the city’s proposed land bank,” McDonald said. He said the land bank provides the tools necessary to rebuild the city’s neighborhoods, once home to thousands of GE employees.

“If the neighborhoods can be rebuilt with owner-occupied housing that is attractive in today’s market, this will build the tax base and improve the quality of life in the neighborhoods,” McDonald said. “In addition, I think we need to continue to focus on business and economic development to increase sales tax revenues to the county.”

McDonald said residents should vote for him because of his “passion for the most important issues facing them, my business experience, my experience in dealing with people and employees and my loyalty to the taxpayers of the county.”

Patricia Zollinger

To Zollinger, the two most important issues affecting residents of District 2 are taxes and fees and unfunded future retirement benefits. The latter appears in the city’s budget as a line item.

“There are 120 different taxing entities within the county, with the city commanding the highest rates per capita and property values. The city has also introduced fees that are dumped into the general budget and are not accounted for,” she said.

To tackle the first issue, Zollinger proposes consolidation of services.

“The idea of consolidation can no longer be ignored. Stop with the studies and draw up a workable plan, starting with centralized [police] dispatch. Set a deadline to make it a reality and pay for it with taxes collected at the county level,” she said.

On the second issue, she said municipalities should adhere to a federal requirement on how to account for post-employment benefits on future spending.

“Communities cannot plan properly for the future if this projection is unknown. Five- and 10-year capital plans may have to take a back seat to promises made in previous years. We need to better plan our future and to know what kind of funding we’ll have to accomplish those plans,” she said.

Zollinger said residents should vote for her because they will know what “I know and they will receive 100 percent of my effort to prevent the introduction of fees at the county level.”

She added she will work to ensure the city receives its fair share of sales tax revenues. The city receives a guaranteed $11 million annually in sales tax revenues under an agreement with the county, which expires in 2012. Towns and villages receive a similar amount. The county retains the remainder. It expects to collect $88 million in 2012.

Zollinger said she will also work to ensure residents are receiving property tax revenue from “all sources, for-profit and not-for-profit entities alike.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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