The change Chautauqua County made to how it charges cities for workers’ compensation costs makes sense.
Basing the charge more on wages paid to a municipality‘s workforce makes more sense than using a municipality’s population, and it incentivizes local governments participating in the county plan to maintain their wage bill as well. low as possible through shared services and contract negotiations. This is particularly true for Dunkirk and Jamestown.
But Chautauqua County pulled a page out of the state’s playbook by arriving at the correct answer through a series of comically incorrect steps. If a letter sent by Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas and Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist is true, then the county did not tell the two towns it was raising their costs before the mayors read the articles in the newspaper. The county could have at least sent a form letter to the cities explaining the change and asking for feedback. If the state had forced a similar change on the county, we’re sure county lawmakers and executive PJ Wendel would have been angry. Officials in both cities have every right to be upset about the lack of notification.
Then county officials and the Chautauqua County Legislature had ample opportunity to right their wrong by phasing in the new, higher payments. Instead, they opted to make the change effective Jan. 1, apparently because cities had benefited from the old system for decades. This argument is as solid as a damp cardboard box. Whenever the state imposes an additional cost on the county government, there are shouts and howls about the limited county budget and its effect on taxpayers. But doing the exact same thing in Dunkirk, Jamestown and, to a lesser extent, the village of Westfield, is fine with lawmakers – including some who represent the towns?
We hear a lot about the Chautauqua County Legislature working together for the welfare of county residents. But what good is working together inside the legislative chambers if the spirit of cooperation does not extend beyond the walls of the Gerace Office Building?