EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of a series of articles highlighting major issues facing area Chautauqua County legislative districts and the legislators who will preside over them.
John Runkle wants to see some changes in his third term with the Chautauqua County Legislature.
He is most concerned with high taxes, which affect not only his district, but all districts in the county, he said.
"I was elected by my constituents to watch their tax dollars and I take that very seriously," Runkle said. "We need to work on controlling the size and cost of county government and one of the ways to do this is by controlling welfare costs."
In 2012, Runkle sponsored legislation in requesting updates on the county's Welfare to Work program."We were down towards the bottom of the state in terms of numbers," he said. "Since then, numbers have improved, but we need to continue in these efforts to reduce our tax levy."
As of this past August, Chautauqua County placed 24th out of 57 counties in terms of participation in the program, which, according to NY.gov, is responsible for promoting greater self-sufficiency of the state's welfare and low-income households through the delivery of training, employment and post-employment activities, programs and services.
In the next two years, Runkle will continue to support state requirements for residency in order to receive benefits.
The topic has been highly discussed within Human Services and Audit and Control committees in Mayville within the past few months.
"I just find it strangely ironic that we support and coddle those coming here from other states with no intention of working whatsoever," Runkle said. "It causes taxes to increase for those who are here already and have worked hard and contributed to our local economy on a daily basis."
Although he would like to see more economic development, Runkle said it will be difficult for businesses to succeed in Chautauqua County with taxes as high as they are.
Runkle will join 18 other legislators on Jan. 1, downsized from a group of 25, of which he approves.
"Downsizing causes legislators to be more accountable," Runkle said. "We can center in on things."
The new legislature will have many issues to handle, one of them being the Chautauqua County Home. County legislators have had opposing views on whether or not to privatize the county-owned nursing facility, which has reportedly lost thousands of dollars since 2008 with reports as high as $8,000 in daily losses.
Runkle said he has studied the nursing facility's financial statistics and believes its privatization is necessary.
"It's a very difficult situation. I know it's near and dear to the hearts of many people around here, but we're going to have to start finding ways to reduce the cost and size of county government and this is one way we can do this," he said.
Although he did not go into detail, Runkle said the establishment of a regional water district in the northern part of the county is important.
Chautauqua County has been home to Runkle's family since 1953, and he said serving on the legislature gives him the opportunity to "give a little back" to the county.
He currently resides in Stockton.