Despite a large projected funding gap in the 2013 tentative budget, the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors met Tuesday night to undo the majority of Treasurer Shawn Bowerman’s suggested cuts.
The $92 million budget he proposed last month attempted to close a $4 million funding gap through large cuts in county support to outside agencies as well as some less drastic cuts to the Department of Public Works.
All were added back into the budget Tuesday, with most of the money to pay for them coming from the county’s reserve fund.
The Cornell Cooperative Extension’s funding, cut entirely by Bowerman, was restored to its 2012 level of $72,000. The resolution passed with very little opposition, much to the relief of Brian Gilchrist, the executive director of the Fulton Montgomery Extension.
“There would have been layoffs,” he said, listing the many programs, including 4H, that would have been shut down had the cuts been finalized. “Basically everything we do in Montgomery County would have stopped.”
The Office for Aging was put back in the budget and set to receive $206,000 in 2013, the same amount budgeted for 2012. Cuts made to the Soil and Water Conservation District were also reversed, all with little resistance.
However, heated debates broke out over requested funds for the DPW. Public Works Commissioner Paul Clayburn said the budgeted amount was not enough to continue infrastructure maintenance and pay for the five or six demolition projects requested for next year.
“If you want to keep kicking the can down the road, that’s fine, but we’ll be broke next year,” said St. Johnsville Supervisor Dominick Stagliano, who supported the original cuts to the DPW.
He singled out the department’s involvement in demolition projects, saying it cost too much money and “the county never should have been in the demolition game.”
Amsterdam Town Supervisor Tom DiMezza said that over the last seven years taxes have generally gone down county wide, and even if they have to be raised to accommodate things like the DPW, residents will still be better off.
“What can you buy today that is less expensive than it was seven years ago?” he said, “But county taxes have diminished.”
The resolution passed narrowly, bringing the DPW budget back to the usual $7.7 million and drawing another $145,000 from the county fund balance.
According to Bowerman, after the board’s changes, the tentative budget will draw nearly $1.8 million from the roughly $5 million fund balance. As yet, the budget includes no layoffs, which Amsterdam 2nd Ward Supervisor Jeffrey Stark said is an unrealistic expectation for the coming year.
“We don’t want to lay people off, use the fund balance or raise taxes,” he said. “We can’t have it all.”
The full board may further change the budget before approval.