A sentiment that "blames Albany" for our area's problems is sometimes short-sighted and almost laughable.
Just because municipal leaders here pass budgets on time does not mean they are doing a good job for the residents they represent. One has to look no further than the past 18 months - during the Great Recession - in which public employees continued to see wages grow while those who work in the private sector have faced salary freezes and reductions.
According to The Wall Street Journal opinion piece by A. Gary Shilling on "How to tackle government labor costs," private payrolls across the nation - and likely in our region - have dropped by 7.4 percent since December 2007.
"Years ago, there was an informal 'social contract' - public employees generally received lower wages than private-sector workers, and in return they got earlier retirement and generous pensions, allowing them to catch up," wrote Shilling, an economic consultant and investment adviser. "That arrangment has long since gone by the boards. The result is a remarkable trend. State and local government employees for years have received pay increases in excess of inflation, and (the Bureau of Labor Statistics) figures show they now have wages that are 34 percent higher on average than in the private sector."
Residents - especially those in the private sector - need to remember this fact when they are complaining about high taxes. Public wages are one of the major factors driving taxes up in Chautauqua County. Those contracts are not negotiated in Albany - they are negotiated right here - by our representatives elected to oversee our villages, towns, counties and schools.
It is very easy for those trustees or county legislators to vote yes on those 12 percent pay hikes over three or four years - no matter how "difficult" they say the decision is.
They would rather get it off their plates - and gladly pass on the tax hikes to residents - than really negotiate fair wages.