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Legislators hold budget workshops

YATES COUNTY--Yates County legislators held two budget workshops this week to discuss potential adjustments to the preliminary $41,468,576 county budget for 2017.
The meetings were held Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 24 and 25. Monday afternoon's session included discussion of community services, the sheriff's department, the county jail, communications, emergency management, court security and animal control.
The legislature discussed budgeting an additional $15,000 for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County. Executive Director Arlene Wilson said it would allow the agency to seek an additional $30,000 from the state Department of Conservation to hire a full-time person to work on farmland preservation.
Asked whether the additional money could be sought from other counties that would also benefit, she said that was not possible under current arrangements.
The additional funding for the agency was approved 8-5, with legislature Chairman Timothy Dennis and legislators William Holgate, Elden Morrison, Leslie Church and Terry Button dissenting.
Sheriff Ronald Spike said the coroner's budget is fairly flat from last year to this year. Asked whether enough is budgeted for autopsies, he said that amount is based on a five-year average.
One increase in the coroner's budget is due to changes in hospital costs, Spike said. Hospital charges include the use of the morgue and the cost of the pathologist and the pathologist's assistant, he said.
Spike said communications costs were reduced quite a bit in the proposed spending plan. For example, they no longer have to pay for leases on two communication towers, saving about $70,000, he said.
Spike said $76,517 in two dispatch expenses can be offset by revenue from a Department of Homeland Security sustainability grant that was not received at the time the preliminary budget was put together. Legislators unanimously approved the change.
During the discussion, legislator Mark Morris raised concerns about dispatch labor and double shifts in dispatch scheduling.
"Basically, what we're doing is we're paying (for) eight days for seven days' work, I believe, the way that's set up," he said. "My question is, are we still going to continue doing this, or is that something that we're going to look at doing it in a different way?"
Spike said they are going to continue doing it and gave a lengthy explanation of how four-day, 10-hour shifts are beneficial in dealing with coverage for peak periods, worker morale and operational efficiency. Six hours of overlap can be beneficial to reducing overtime and overstaffing, he said.
Many of Yates County's costs are higher than for other comparable counties, and that's what needs to be addressed, Morris said. "You look at who's better than you and say, 'How can we take some of their practices and improve our operation?'"
Also during Monday's workshop, Yates History Center Executive Director John Potter updated legislators about the center's achievements this year to date, including digitizing 90,000 newspaper pages from 1845 to 1969, representing an electronically searchable resource for Yates County history. He expressed the center's appreciation for $1,000 it receives from the county.
"For $1,000, we're getting a lot of information and a lot of support," Dennis said.
Under the preliminary 2017 budget released earlier this month, the proposed $16,323,357 tax levy represents an increase of 1.87 percent or $299,913 compared with 2016. The increase in the levy is $34,083 lower than allowed by the state property tax cap.
The tax rate would decrease by 1.15 percent to $6.64 per $1,000 of assessed value, down from $6.72.
Proposed expenditures of $41,468,576 in 2017 are budgeted at 1.01 percent less than this year's budget, a decrease of $424,937. Proposed revenues for 2017 are budgeted at 1.56 percent less than this year, a decrease of $373,644.

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