The county serves the public, and increasingly, the public is online, which is why County Manager Jay Gsell thinks the county needs a stronger and more consistent digital presence.
In his 2016 budget, he's proposing a new position in the county's IT department that would be responsible for the county's Web site and its social media activity, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
"There is also a difference in generations in how they deal with us," Gsell said. "They are different in where they go for their information, where they look for information and how they interact with county government whether they're asking questions, registering complaints or things of that nature."
The county's Web site could be more user-friendly, but more importantly, Gsell said, it could contain more information that is more current and timely and relevant to residents.
"We're the public sector -- if we're not public and media friendly, we suck," Gsell said. "We're also not doing our job. The idea is to put information out and give it out so the public can access it."
Increasingly, people want to find their information and interact with government and businesses in social media, and the county should be where the public is, Gsell said, which means an active presence on Facebook and Twitter, for example.
"If you don't have a more duel-enabled communication, you're missing out on how you connect with people, how people connect with your services, how they issue complaints, how they issue praise in some cases, or even how we deal with some things we change, for instance, taking on credit card payments in the Treasurer's Office," Gsell said.
The salary for the new position will be about $35,000 and represent a total expenditure with benefits and related expenses of $58,000.
The position is part of a $106,756,416 spending plan being proposed by Gsell.
On the revenue side, Gsell is proposing a $27,283,304 tax levy with a $9.89 tax rate per thousand of assessed value. That is a 3-cent increase over the 2015 tax rate.
One new position previously proposed that didn't make the budget is an additional Sheriff's deputy with a primary responsibility to keep a sharp eye out for drunken drivers.
The position would have been funded through STOP-DWI money -- fines levied against convicted drunken drivers -- but Gsell said he could tell the idea wasn't going over well with a majority of the Legislature, so he dropped the proposal from the budget. He said the consensus among legislators seemed to be that even if the position was legal and above board, it might engender the perception that there was a level of entrapment in the strategy to catch more drunken drivers. Any case of actual entrapment could open the county up to litigation, something the Legislature would like to avoid.
"It's not like it was, 'Oh, my, this is the best thing since pockets,' so we said, 'You know what, it's not worth the angst and having the legislators have a discomfort as we're trying to present a hundred plus million proposal to let that become the litmus test of what's going on for 2016,' so we pulled it out," Gsell said.
The budget also includes an increase in hours for the County Attorney, making the job a full-time position. The additional 7.5 hours per week means an additional $30,000 in salary and a total increase in expenditure for the position of $37,095, but that cost is offset, Gsell said, by a decrease elsewhere in the budget for contracted fees for outside counsel.
The budget proposal also includes a new public health sanitarian in the health department and a new case manager in Genesee Justice. Gsell said the case load at Genesee Justice has started to overwhelm the current staff hours in that department.
Ray Cianfrini, chairman of the Legislature, also floated the idea that members of the body should consider whether it's time for a pay raise for legislators. There was no further discussion of the idea after he threw mentioned it.