Yates legislature faces budget shortfall
YATES COUNTY—The Yates County Legislature met Monday, Oct. 29 and Tuesday, Oct. 30 in an attempt to trim a tentative 2013 budget that faces a 22.8 percent tax levy increase of $2.9 million over last year.
County Administrator and Budget Officer Sarah Purdy said the county has previously used the fund balance to prevent a tax levy increase since 2007, and that looking back it probably was not the right thing to do. She said because of the failure to raise taxes when surpluses were available, the county does not have enough money to pay for collapsing roofs at the highway facilities and failing security equipment in the public safety building.
Purdy also said there is no way the county can avoid the tax levy increase staying within the tax cap calculated at 4.6 percent unless they shut down entire departments.
After the first day of going over the 2013 budget, Purdy said the legislature was able to save approximately $125,000 by going through line items for each proposed budget and removing what the county does not need to spend money on this year, as well as finding additional revenue streams. Some of the major cuts include $65,000 from the road machinery fund for a new medium-duty truck and $30,000 in funding for the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center (FLEDC).
FLEDC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Steve Griffin proposed the cut in their budget as an offer to help the legislature in exchange for assistance with redoing their blacktop and paving.
“This is truly an example of our county acting as a family and cooperating,” Legislator Tim Dennis said.
The legislature also cut $8,800 for a school based counselor program in the community services budget. Purdy said Yates County is currently the only county in the state still providing for the program.
The legislature looked to save future money as well by voting to purchase four new central copy machines for $20,000 with a chance for a $15,000 reimbursement, despite caution from Purdy, who said the contingency fund was too low. The county would have to allocate the $20,000 for this year, but would end up saving $1,350 from the initial $6,350 that was allocated for the purchase of two new copy machines.
The legislature again stressed the impact state mandates have on the budget and how difficult it is to pay for them without additional state funding. Dennis expressed his frustration with the state mandating an additional $250,000 to community college tuition, putting the budget for it at $1 million. He said the numbers do not make sense and that if the price for community college was truly split a third between the state, county and students that there would be a larger outcry from students.
“I don’t trust the state that they are paying their third,” Dennis said. “I think they are pushing it onto us. We should cut it back to $750,000 and let the state come and get us. It’s time to push back.”
Legislator Daniel Banach countered, saying “What happens if the state pushes back and these kids can’t go to school?” County Chairman Taylor Fitch said he agrees the issue needs to be addressed, but he does not know how to properly address it.
The board also looked at other ways to lower expenses like cutting back the hours of customer service for the motor vehicle clerks. Since there is still time before the official budget is released, the legislature agreed to send issues like these back to their respective committees when they meet in November.