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'Austere' budget, without 'vital' projects

PENN YAN—Two major economic development projects are not included in the 2010 Yates County budget. County administrator and budget officer Sarah Purdy said waterfront redevelopment was not included in the budget. Earlier Purdy said waterfront redevelopment, broadband and public transportation were deemed vital projects, but funding would have to be pursued through bonding or grants. Workshops on the 2010 Yates County budget were Oct. 26 and 27.
Later in the day, legislator Taylor Fitch took issue with elimination of some funding for the Empire Zone. He said, “The only request is for the salary of an employee. It does a disservice to economic development not supporting the program. They are getting a lot of work done. We wanted an Empire Zone and we have the responsibility to fund it.” Legislature chairman Robert Multer said he would like a report on their activities, a request echoed by legislator Tim Dennis. Action on the line item was tabled until Tuesday to allow time for Fitch to get the report that was requested.
Another organization which hopes to impact economic development, the newly formed Finger Lakes Visitors Association, requested $150,000, but their total request was denied. Legislators did agree to fund the Yates County Chamber of Commerce, Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance and Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism at $142,000. A portion of the revenue from the occupancy tax revenue will be used for support of tourism.
Cornell Cooperative Extension is also involved in economic development and director Peter Landre outlined the impact on the economy of the agriculture industry in the county. Landre told legislators the recommended budget for the agency would put Extension back where they were five years ago. He said, “Yates County funding is our core funding. Without county funding we cannot exist.” Extension as well as several other community organizations receive matching funds only if county funding is granted. Fitch, who chairs the legislature’s finance committee, said, “I cannot think of one good reason not to support your request. Water, agriculture, organic foods, 4-H, I think you are most important to our county.” Legislator Bill Holgate added, “I can’t think of anyone who impacts people more.”
Yates Soil and Water Conservation District was another agency that leverages money as a result of the county’s financial support. Director Jim Balyszak told legislators his organization will directly leverage another $99,000 with the financial support requested. Cooperative Extension with more than $250,000 in support from the county and Soil and Water Conservation with $100,000 in support are the two largest community agencies receiving support.
The process of reviewing each line item of the 119 page, $40 million budget got bogged down during the morning session when one legislator reported there was extensive debate on a $75 line item.
In developing the budget, Purdy noted loss of earnings from interest and a significant increase in payment to the state pension system totaling $776,000 resulted in a budget she termed, “austere.” In addition to the reductions in budgets for community agencies, not refilling five vacant positions, purchasing vehicles and equipment that need replacement were some of the tools used to create a budget that carries no increase in the tax levy.
Restoration of some funding may impact the final tax levy slightly. The completed budget will be considered at the Nov. 9 meeting of the county legislature and a public hearing will be scheduled.

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