State of the County 2023

State of the County 2023Pictured is Tioga County’s Legislative Chairwoman, Martha Sauerbrey. (File Photo)

As delivered by Martha Sauerbrey, chairwoman of Tioga County’s Legislature —

The first best news about Tioga County Government is our financial status. In 2023 our Sales tax collections were up 4.96% to $33,288,309, or 1.5 million dollars over 2022. County Towns and Villages received 25% of our sales tax collections that we share with them, benefiting their communities. 

The Treasurer auctioned off 28 tax-foreclosed properties at an August public auction. Despite writing off three years of uncollected property taxes, the sales produced a surplus of $210,000 at closings. However, a proposed State Law will no longer allow counties to retain surplus and shall address a priority distribution of such funds. The State is still discussing how that law will roll out.

In 2023 the County paid 2.9 million dollars in Community College tuition bills. This state mandated education service represented 12% of our county tax levy last year. One thousand four hundred and seventy residents benefited from this program. If you have children that are attending Community Colleges, you can thank the county’s taxpayers for paying a portion of their tuition costs.

2023 was filled with many successes and many challenges. Processes and procedures have been improved in our Public Health Department, and new staff and management have brought much success to programs such as Public Health Emergency Preparedness, and the Welcome Baby Outreach program.  

The Veterans Service Agency continues to provide needed services to our county Veterans, and they host monthly outreach programs for veterans to connect with one another. Their outreach efforts have helped county Veterans through times of struggle.

The Economic Development and Planning Department (ED&P) has been very active with programs such as the Village of Owego DRI, New York Main Street programs for Candor and Owego, along with ongoing projects such as Restore NY projects for the Village of Owego. The Village of Waverly is being assisted with their 4.5-million-dollar New York Forward Project. All these projects help improve our communities and draw more people to our area. Broadband expansion in the Nichols area had assistance provided through American Recovery Funds facilitated through ED&P.

Our Real Property Department proposed and drafted a Local Law that the Legislature passed, granting the new Volunteer Firefighters and Ambulance Workers a property tax exemption.  

For the second year in a row the County Clerk’s Office saw a large increase in passport applications and photos. Passport applications increased by 64% over 2022, and the passport photo service increased by 79%. The total 2023 revenue from the Clerk’s Office was down roughly 24% from 2022. The area that saw the largest decline was in the area of land records, and deeds and mortgages, most likely due to the increase in interest rates.   

Tioga County DMV needs to be applauded for the excellent service they provide. We continually get compliments from customers who are pleased with their service.

Our Asset Management Department has plans to work with the County Clerk to start the process of digitizing historic records so that the public can access them electronically rather than handling the originals.

Another active team of employees is our Information Technology and Communication Services Department who have been extremely busy with installing more effective storage systems and significant security upgrades, from camera installation to threat intelligence and cyber-attack response. The ITCS municipal shared services program has kept staff extremely busy addressing the needs of towns and villages who are participating in the program, those municipalities include the Village of Waverly, Town of Barton, Town of Owego, Village of Owego, Town of Nichols, and the Town of Candor. 

Our Probation Department is prescribed by New York State laws and is a mandated service in all counties. The Probation Department runs an excellent program Alternative to Detention, which reduces or eliminates the use of expensive detention placement of youth in the juvenile justice system. Probation’s external focus in 2023 revolved around community safety and provision of services, expanding the number of tools available to assist with the supervision of individuals such as electronic monitoring.

The Public Works Department will always be an active department within the county; renovating and relocating office space, repairing heating and cooling issues, replacing culverts, paving roads or other unusual tasks such as retrieving a historic bell. As for the Bell of Sessions, if you read the paper or watched the news you will know that our County Historian, Emma Sedore, was able to find what we believed to be lost, a precious artifact, the Bell of Sessions. The Public Works Department was able to retrieve the bell and install it at our 56 Main St. location. This was a proud moment for the county, and we are grateful to Emma for her diligence in locating the bell.  

Some of our biggest challenges in 2023 were centered on employment. Our Personnel Department struggled with recruiting employees, with an average of 39 full-time vacancies being carried at any time. This was a problem not just for Tioga County, but around the country as well. The State helped by creating a program called “Hiring for Emergency Limited Placement Program” (HELP), which Personnel participated in. This program helped remove barriers to Civil Service hiring and addressed the statewide workforce shortage related to health and safety titles.

Staffing shortages affected all departments, most significantly Social Services. However, the Social Services Department was able to provide excellent services regarding Children and Adult Services, and Employment and Transitional Services. Accounting / Systems / Resource and Recovery / Fraud Activities for 2023 were greatly challenged due to finding qualified and experienced candidates. 

As we moved into a new year, the Board of Elections welcomed new staff members from both the Democratic and Republican Parties, and immediately geared up for the Presidential Election as well as State and local elections. Election reforms continue, with the Early Vote by Mail law that was passed and effective in 2024. Legislation was also signed that could move most local elections to even years starting in 2025.

The Law Department is active in responding to Litigations and Claims, Contract Bidding and Administration, and providing legal counsel, not to mention legal counsel for Social Services, Public Health, and Mental Hygiene. The Assistant County Attorney’s Office continues to be extremely busy with child protection matters. Despite the unfortunate nature of these cases, the Assistant County Attorney works in the best interest of our children. 

The Public Defender’s office completed another year and not a single case or matter was returned by the Appellate Court due to ineffective assistance of counsel provided by their office. 

The District Attorney will be prosecuting the Thomas Rath homicide. Rath was abducted in Tompkins County, but ended up in Tioga County where he was eventually murdered. We have arrested over a dozen individuals involved in this and anticipate several felony trials over the next year.

Moving into 2024 we have exciting projects underway for the safety and security of our county. The Sheriff’s Department arranged for two Deputies to be trained and certified to become Drone Pilots. The goal for the future is to implement a department-wide Drone Program, which includes two drones for multiple uses including search and rescue, accident / crime scene reconstruction, and public relations.  

The Interoperable Radio Communications Project is well underway. Four new communication tower locations are established, and the construction of the towers will begin later this year. We will report more when construction begins.

Interviews for the County Administrator are underway, and we hope to have someone in place by the beginning of the summer. 

Lastly, the county is engaged in a large project regarding a new location for our Mental Hygiene Department in the Village of Waverly. The county is working with the village on an agreement to house our Mental Health Services in part of the Village of Waverly Building, located at 31 Ithaca St. in Waverly, N.Y. This will allow Mental Health Services to be more easily obtained in this area of the county. This was a long-term project that required funding and agreements to come into place. We are extremely pleased with the cooperation of all parties to make this project a success.

For more detailed reporting for each county department, visit

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