As the Cayuga County Legislature begins hashing out a new budget, the top priority needs to be formalizing a plan for how the county will be managed in 2020.
The county parted ways with its most recent administrator in June, and a tentative $153 million spending plan presented Monday does not include any funding for the position. Legislators have previously discussed a variety of options to fill the void at the top, including appointing an interim administrator or moving toward an elected county executive. Regardless of which direction the county goes in the long-term, coming up with a consensus on which way to proceed in January needs to be accomplished within the next few weeks.
Hiring an interim or full-time administrator is going to require a search process and a salary. And having an elected executive would take years to achieve, because it would require establishing a new county charter and then holding an election.
At the end of the year it will have been seven months since Chair Tucker Whitman, Assigned Counsel Program Executive Director Lloyd Hoskins and others have been essentially sharing the duties of an administrator. The structure cannot sustain itself much longer and the county is in dire need of stability at the top. Even sticking with the current system beyond December will come with a price, because Hoskins, who has taken on a much greater workload without any extra compensation, has indicated that he has no interest continuing to do so after the first of the year.
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The good news is that having no current budget line for executive leadership is not the end of the discussion. It is actually a great place to start as budget negotiations begin Thursday night, because the funding question goes hand in hand with the task at hand: regardless of what anybody wants to see happen in the long term, the county needs to come up with some sort of leadership plan for Jan. 1 — and have a budget item in place to pay for it.
The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Michelle Bowers, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.