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County faces bleak budget

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — August 27, 2010 — The county’s budget crunch for 2011 became a 2010 conversation on Thursday of last week.
“The challenges everybody faces here are more unique than any other year,” advised Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis at the county’s Management and Budget Committee meeting.
County Manager David Fanslau, in fact, predicted the county and nation may be headed for a period of deflation – lower prices accompanied by lower salaries.
“It just makes revenue projections that much harder,” he lamented.
Committee Chair and Legislator Jodi Goodman added that this summer has not been kind to Sullivan County, at least in terms of sales tax generation.
“I think our sales tax number is going to be showing a hit,” she worried.
Indeed, county leaders are planning on it as they begin preparing next year’s budget. Yet even with an expected $8.3 million decline in revenue, the various departments’ combined 2011 operating budget requests mean the county is facing at least a $4 million higher tab than in 2010.
Rouis indicated that’s not acceptable.
“Over the next 8-10 weeks, we’ll be whittling this down,” he promised.
That began at a special Capital Planning and Budgeting Committee meeting the same day, when Fanslau said the county should hold off on moving the Sheriff’s Office’s patrol headquarters to the former BOCES facility near the old Apollo Plaza.
Though the current office is on Bushnell Avenue in Monticello in one of the oldest buildings in the county, the $425,000 cost to move – largely due to replacing the heating and ventilation system at the new location – is giving officials pause.
“I think it really should be deferred to 2012,” Fanslau told legislators.
“We should explore leasing it to a business that would provide jobs and pay taxes,” suggested Legislator Alan Sorensen.
But that would still require replacing the air exchange system.
Legislators didn’t make a definite decision on that item, but they did agree to give the Sheriff’s Office five new patrol cars instead of the two initially budgeted.
That’s still six less than what Sheriff Michael Schiff requested, but it will help replace heavily-used vehicles with more than 200,000 miles on them.
No layoffs in any county office have yet been discussed, at least publicly.

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