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County committee discusses budget

November 17, 2012
By ARTHUR CLEVELAND , The Leader Herald

FONDA-The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors General Services and Economic Development Committees Tuesday heard from the head of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Fulton and Montgomery counties and employees of the county, many of whom expressed concerns about the 2013 proposed budget and the Finance Committee's suggestions.

Montgomery County Treasurer Shawn Bowerman released the $92 million preliminary plan in early October. Previously, the county was looking at budget figures that showed a $4 million shortfall. To bridge this gap, the preliminary budget uses the fund balance and increases revenue estimates from sales tax by $900,000 and boarding inmates at the county jail by $500,000.

The plan includes no funding for the Office for Aging and Cornell Cooperative Extension, saving $400,000. It lowers the Soil and Water Conservation District's funding by $37,000.

The Finance Committee's suggestion, which would lay off 35 employees to avoid using the fund balance, would affect the Department of Public Works, Department of Social Services and the Sheriff's Department the most. County supervisors are considering cutting funding to outside agencies, including the Office for the Aging and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Use of the fund balance has been the subject of a contentious debate in the budget discussions, with some members stating they would vote against using it.

Brian Gilchirst, executive director for Cornell Cooperative Extension, said he felt the funding to the organization was deeply important, stressing that it provides educational and economic services to the community.

"By investing in [Cornell], you are providing one more service to residents in Montgomery County," Gilchirst said.

Gilchirst did not make any attacks, merely stressing how the Cooperative has helped those in the county in terms of agricultural assistance and job training in the agricultural business.

Paul Clayburn, DPW commissioner, said he felt the committees proposed cuts to the DPW were excessive. He said all the fat was trimmed out of previous budgets to the point that "meat" - important parts of the budget - were cut.

"Reduction of personal as proposed would be devastating," Clayburn said.

Dan Colon, Data Processing director, said the proposed cuts would close the print shop as well as severely reduce the staff.

"That is not our working budget," Colon said, adding that he was concerned the cuts proposed could be placed in the final budget, leading to severe understaffing and increased costs to the county. One of the positions cut included a technician at the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, which could lead to problems with computers and data entry.

"They might pass it and not understand the results," Colon said.

Board of Supervisors Chairman and Root town Supervisor John Thayer said the sheet referred to by Colon also included a request that department heads send suggestions and reactions to the committee, and that no proposed cuts were in the preliminary budget.



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