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Local Government Conference offers training, discussion

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More than 600 local officials from surrounding counties are expected to descend on Jefferson Community College this month for the Tug Hill Commission’s 24th annual North Country Local Government Conference — a day of discussions and instruction that will satisfy annual requirements for planning and zoning boards’ members and provide professional development and networking opportunities.

John K. Bartow, the commission’s executive director, said the conference on March 28 will offer the “best training from the best trainers in the state.”

Representatives from the state comptroller’s office, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and industry will be on hand as well as planners, legal experts and records management experts.

In addition to 30 skill sessions offered throughout the day, each year the conference revolves around a particular theme that reflects the state’s and country’s broader legislative climate.

In past years, core themes have included transparency and ethics in government, with keynote addresses delivered by guests speaking about those issues.

Last year, a 2 percent annual property tax levy increase cap weighed at the forefront of elected officials’ minds along with concerns about unfunded state mandates depleting an increasing percentage of municipalities’ coffers.

State mandates are still lurking but have been joined by a host of topics dealing with recent trends in technology and economic development.

According to Mr. Bartow, a major feature of the conference will be a discussion about how municipalities can best take advantage of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s new Regional Economic Development Councils, which were unveiled in 2011 to help municipalities develop long-term strategic plans for economic growth.

A session devoted to navigating the application process to secure funding from one of the 10 councils aims to help local governments “make it easier to find government assistance available to them,” Mr. Bartow said.

Melding the new and old, several training sessions address integrating technology into municipal government as well as creative uses for historic buildings and ways to use technology to maintain municipal infrastructure and reduce energy consumption.

The keynote address will be delivered at 8:30 a.m. by Gerald K. Geist, the new executive director of the state Association of Towns.

Mr. Geist, along with the association’s legal staff members, will also conduct an open discussion with conference participants about legislative priorities, legal issues and upcoming topics of concern for municipalities across the state.

Mr. Bartow said the commission had received 300 RSVPs before the early deadline Wednesday.

He expects to see many more rolling in over the next few days after local governments conduct their meetings, many of which fall during the month’s first week.

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