Just days after a court decision that affirmed his narrow re-election win in November, Malta Supervisor Paul Sausville was elected chairman of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors on Thursday.
Sausville, who is succeeding Charlton Supervisor Alan R. Grattidge as head of the board, expressed optimism about restoring the county’s financial health over the next couple of years.
“In 2014, I’m hoping we can begin to rebuild our reserves, our rainy day fund,” he told colleagues at Thursday’s organizational meeting in Ballston Spa.
The county’s fund balance — the rainy day fund of money left over from previous budget years — dropped below $10 million last year. It had been $30 million just a few years ago. The big drop was due in large part to multimillion-dollar losses each year at the county’s Maplewood Manor nursing home.
The county also has raised property taxes for the past three years, though by a smaller amount each year. Saratoga County continues to have low property taxes compared with most counties, Sausville noted.
He credited Grattidge and Supervisor Tom Wood of Saratoga, who led the board in 2011 and 2012, with making the “hard decisions” that are now improving the county’s fiscal picture, including the decisions to sell the county landfill and Maplewood Manor. Both deals are still pending, but the sale of the landfill to Finch Paper is expected to close in January, giving an immediate $4 million cash boost to the county.
“Over the past three years, we had some really tough times,” Sausville acknowledged. “I predict over the next two years we will be able to rebuild our rainy day fund and be financially healthy again.”
He said he’s also optimistic that the county will adopt a new economic development plan in 2014 and that GlobalFoundries will commit to building Fab 8.2, a $15 billion expansion of its computer chip manufacturing operations in Luther Forest.
“When they make a commitment to Fab 8.2, they will expect us to make a commitment to [provide them with] water, sewer, power and everything else,” he said.
He named Supervisor John E. Lawler, R-Waterford, to lead the county Economic Development Committee, which would be involved in tackling any such infrastructure issues.
“We will continue to be the envy of New York state in terms of economic development,” he said.
Sausville is replacing Grattidge under a system in which board leadership is rotated, usually every year, among the most senior Republican board members who haven’t previously led the board, which has long been dominated by the Republican Party.
The last chairman from Malta was David R. Meager in 1976.
Last year, Sausville was the board’s vice chairman, clearly in line to lead the board in 2014. But the succession plan was nearly derailed when Democrat Cynthia Young almost beat him in the November election. Sausville’s re-election by a single vote wasn’t certain until Tuesday, when the state Court of Appeals refused to review two lower court rulings that invalidated two disputed absentee votes for Young.
Sausville, 74, is a civil engineer retired from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Surrounded by his wife of 54 years, Nancy, and their three children and nine grandchildren, Sausville took the oath of office from his son, Paul John Sausville, who is a U.S. Army lawyer.
Sausville has been the Malta town supervisor for the past eight years but has a four-decade record of serving the town in various capacities.
Sausville brings a unique perspective and often raises interesting questions, Supervisor Matthew Veitch, R-Saratoga Springs, said in a nominating speech.
“It makes for well-rounded and balanced decision-making,” Veitch said.
As a chairman’s initiative, Sausville is establishing a “Character First” program, urging promotion of positive character traits. He believes elected officials need to lead by example.
“So often, we get wrapped up in the work; we forget that it’s how the work gets done that’s really important,” Sausville told colleagues in his introductory address.
He had motivational speaker Jay Rifenbary of Saratoga Springs speak to supervisors for about 10 minutes on the need to set good examples, and he said a student essay program will start in February.