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$7 Million in the Hole?

By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO — July 13, 2004 – It looks like Sullivan County just lost $7 million in revenue from a federal block grant – but it was never there to begin with.
According to Richard LaCondre, the county’s commissioner of financial management, the grant went to the departments of community services and family services. He claimed the money was not earmarked appropriately, thus being tabulated twice as revenue.
The “missing” money will come out of the county’s fund balance. County Manager Dan Briggs said the loss will have an impact on the county budget for 2005.
"These are difficult times for all counties in New York . . . we stand far better than the vast majority of counties in New York State," Briggs said.
Briggs would not comment on budget cuts, but said the "next three years will be difficult budgeting years."
Legislature Chairman Chris Cunningham called the impact "serious." He said accountability lay "up and down the management chain." He said he would be expecting a report from Briggs on how to react and prevent the mistake from occurring in the future.
"It’s clearly something we can’t ignore," Cunningham noted.
Director of Family Services Gregory Feicht and Director of Community Services Joseph Todora, did not return calls for comment.
Thursday, the county’s financial management committee agreed to purchase $9.7 million in bonds to pay for landfill costs, public works equipment and county roads. The county now faces more than $60 million in debt.
The legislature also unanimously approved a settlement with Mirant Energy Corp., which would reduce the assessments of Mirant property to 33 percent in 2001, 66 2/3 percent in 2002 and 66 2/3 percent in 2003.
The county will reimburse Mirant the difference in their tax payments from 2001 and 2002.
County Attorney Sam Yasgur would not disclose the amount. Over the next three years, Mirant will be assessed at approximately 1/3 of the previous level. He estimated the company’s previous assessment at $75 million. Mirant is expected to approve the settlement.

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