John Radliff has a suggestion for supervisors and the worst-case scenario of a 20 percent tax increase:
Sit down, shut up, and do your job.
After hearing from both Administrator Steve Wilson, who drew up the proposed $90.9 million 2019 budget, and County Treasurer Bill Cherry, who trashed it—and Mr. Wilson—supervisors won’t be discussing it again publicly until their November 16 meeting, when they’re expected to pass it.
That angers Mr. Radliff, a lifelong Cobleskill dairy farmer and longtime Schoharie County Farm Bureau president.
Especially with the dairy industry failing fast.
“We’re going to be left with nothing but abandoned farms, eyesores, and for sale signs if supervisors don’t start paying attention,” Mr. Radliff said.
“I don’t care who’s right—or wrong. Steve Wilson, Bill Cherry…it’s time for supervisors to stop fighting and start working for the people of Schoharie County.
“Everyone wants to be the big bull in the pasture, but we’re at a crossroads when it comes to farming…It’s the backbone of our economy and if we keep ignoring that, we will have nothing.”
While farmers are exempt from most sales tax and eligible for tax breaks on their land, Mr. Radliff argues that’s irrelevant anymore when most farms are relying on an off-farm income not only to buy things like food and clothing, but also to help pay the farm bills.
Milk prices are so bad, Mr. Radliff said he’s lost track of the number of local farmers who’ve sold their cows; for others, he worries something worse—suicide—might not be far behind.
“Yes, it’s our own fault. We’re too good at what we do,” he said. “But everyone’s going to pay the price when we’re gone. Farming is still our number one industry.”
Supervisors’ economic consultant Peter Fairweather agrees that agriculture offers tremendous potential here, especially when combined with agritourism, and points to opportunities in local and value-added food processing and manufacturing, and in diversified agriculture.
“Given the strong agriculture base in the county…and its relatively ready access to New York City and other metropolitan markets…[these] are logical opportunities…” he wrote in his July analysis.
But not with a 20 percent tax increase, Mr. Radliff said.
“People are already leaving…the businesses we rely on are gone, we can’t get help. And with all the money and time supervisors are spending on this economic study, when it comes to tackling the real problem, they are doing nothing,” Mr. Radliff said.
He’s also angered over supervisors’ plan to essentially do nothing with tourism in 2019, a consequence of losing Occupancy Tax revenues from Cobleskill’s Rodeway Inn.
“What would I do? I’d sit down and go through the budget line by line and make cuts,” he said. “As a farmer, that’s what I do every day.
“Mr. Wilson and Mr. Cherry and supervisors think things are bad now? Just wait. We’re going to have our own caravan of people leaving the county and Albany and Schenectady are going to be putting up their own walls to keep us out. And you can quote me on that.”