Montgomery County officials consider restoring funding

Montgomery County lawmakers will consider digging into the county’s rainy day fund tonight to revers

Montgomery County lawmakers will consider digging into the county’s rainy day fund tonight to reverse several cuts that remain in their tentative 2012 budget.

The county Board of Supervisors’ Finance Committee made numerous changes to the $90 million spending plan last week, replacing funding for agencies that was zeroed-out in the tentative spending plan.

Supervisors added $198,000 for the Office for Aging, $72,000 for Cornell Cooperative Extension and $65,000 for the Soil and Water Conservation District.

Other major changes included adding more than $134,000 for the Public Works Department, which will help maintain eight employees out of 50 at the DPW, according to commissioner Paul Clayburn.

The Sheriff’s Department was provided roughly $187,000 more to maintain four deputies, but $50,000 was cut from the part-time deputy line in the process.

Some of the added spending was offset with cuts in overtime lines, office supplies and utility spending estimates.

Altogether, County Treasurer Shawn Bowerman said, the tentative budget has actually shrunk $29,000. That leaves a tax levy increase of 4.05 percent, Bowerman said, a figure that complies with the state’s new 2 percent tax levy increase limit, due to exclusions and the formula used to determine a municipality’s compliance.

The changes made so far, and those that are made through resolution this week, become official parts of the budget. Supervisors can vote to formally adopt the budget or they can do nothing — in which case, whatever tentative budget is in place on Dec. 20 becomes the official 2012 spending plan.

The changes the supervisors have made will require $4.1 million from the fund balance, money budgeted but not spent in previous years. Combined with an unplanned $750,000 withdrawal to cover late-summer flooding, the rainy day fund will be down to $3 million.

Bowerman fears the board will continue to raid the fund balance, putting the county in a precarious position in the future.

“I don’t agree with it,” said Bowerman, who has been warning the board for years about the county’s shrinking fund balance.

Amsterdam town Supervisor Tom DiMezza said some additions need to be made to the detriment of the current fund balance, including replacing two clerk positions in the District Attorney’s Office — they handle traffic citations for municipal courts, work that ultimately provides funding to the municipalities themselves.

But a fund balance of between $3 million and $3.5 million will leave the county budget “very, very tight,” he admitted.

“I’m not so comfortable with something like that. You have to have money to exist, you have to have money so that you don’t have to borrow money for existing payrolls,” DiMezza said. “You’re really cutting it close at $3 million.”

Board chairman and Minden town Supervisor Thomas Quackenbush said he’s also uneasy about using more fund balance.

“The only way [supervisors] can stay below the 2 percent tax cap now is, if they bring something back, there needs to be a cut to replace it or they need to use fund balance,” he said.

“Personally, I don’t know that I’m in favor of using any more fund balance.”

Quackenbush said it will come to a point where state government will have to do something to help out counties. Taking over the county share of Medicaid would be a good start, he said.

“I’m saying, here’s a year to do it. Find significant mandate relief, not drizzle over the next 20 years. We need it to happen now,” he said.

Special board meetings focusing on the budget will take place in the board’s chambers in Fonda starting at 6 p.m. tonight and Thursday.

Categories: Schenectady County

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