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J. Justin Woods

Cayuga County Administrator J. Justin Woods presents recommendations from the Center for Governmental Research's report at a special Legislature meeting Monday night.

Cayuga County Administrator J. Justin Woods' eagerness to follow through on recommendations for improving how county government operates is a good thing. But the reluctance of some legislators to jump in with both feet is also wise, because the costs involved need to be closely examined.

The county recently received a report from a consulting group it had hired to evaluate how the county conducts its business and how efficiently and effectively it is operating. And the report is clear that its recommendations include "strategic investments" in areas that will not "produce direct savings." In other words, spending money to make the government operate better.

To that end, the report recommends providing more support for the Probation Department through additional staffing, given data showing that the county has a higher case volume — but far fewer probation officers — than comparable upstate counties.

That and other observations spurred Woods this week to recommended creating — over time — several positions, including new probation officers, a deputy planning director, deputy administrator and a civil engineer, among others.

These additional jobs may all make good sense in the end, but what the Legislature is lacking for the time being is any sort of cost-benefit analysis to help its members decide how much is too much to spend. 

The consultants' report may help the county improve the way it operates. It may also help it save money. But at the end of the day we're talking about a municipal government with a state-mandated cap on spending growth. So before any jobs are added to the county payroll, lawmakers — and the public — need a chance to weigh just how much bang for the buck they would be getting with each additional hire.

The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Rob Forcey, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.