By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Facing no help from SUNY, Sullivan County Community College officials on Thursday told legislators they’d pay for services from the county in order to avoid a $600,000 cut in the county’s annual $4 million contribution to SCCC’s budget.
“At this stage, based on what we’ve heard from SUNY, there is really no relief they’re going to give us,” SCCC board member Nick Speranza related at the Legislature’s Government Services Committee meeting.
He was speaking of both the state’s unfulfilled obligation to provide 33 percent of the college’s operating budget and SUNY leaders’ recent visit to the county, where they promised to help but ultimately blamed the State Legislature for the lack of funding.
Meanwhile, county officials stood firm in their insistence that they could not maintain Sullivan County’s contribution to the college’s budget.
SCCC has already been contemplating layoffs and program cuts, including the contracting out of the daycare offering and the suspension of the Elderhostel program.
So board members worked out a deal whereby SCCC will assume $463,238.09 in debt on already-completed construction projects at the Loch Sheldrake campus. The college will also pay the county’s Division of Public Works around $82,000 to pave and repair campus roadways.
Sullivan County itself would have otherwise paid those tabs.
The total is $545,238.09, less than the $600,000 the county wanted, but it seemed to satisfy legislators, who unanimously approved the agreement.
“I think we have made a lot of progress,” said Legislator Alan Sorensen, who chairs the Government Services Committee. “... I want to thank the college board for working with us to come up with a solution.”
SCCC Board Chair Phyllis Coombe said it wasn’t easy or popular.
“The college has been forced to make an almost $2 million reduction [in its proposed 2011-2012 budget],” she told legislators, referencing losses beyond the expenditures to the county. “... That is a very heavy burden on our people and our students.”
But legislators reminded her that they’re facing a $13 million shortfall in the county’s budget next year, as well.
Nevertheless, the often chilly relationship between county and college leaders may be thawing, as both sides expressed eagerness to continue the close discussions forced by this situation.
They’ll have that chance next month, as the college will return with a presentation on what may be a $14 million operating budget.
As for the state, lobbying will continue, but Sorensen acknowledged that New York lawmakers probably won’t come to the county or college’s rescue any time soon.
“That’s why we have courts,” remarked County Treasurer Ira Cohen, referring to the legal mandate for the state to pony up its contribution of one-third of SCCC’s operating budget.
“Are you suggesting the county wants to sue the state?” asked an incredulous Coombe.
“You don’t need the Legislature to confirm that,” Cohen explained. “You just need the law enforced.”
In other business
• Though Legislator Ron Hiatt was worried title abstractors might be unintentionally left without needed workspace, legislators unanimously agreed to let County Clerk Dan Briggs solicit proposals from those interested in securing cubicles in his office.
The small spaces would be located near the files abstractors daily research in their title work, but for legal reasons, anyone can submit a proposal to lease those spaces.
The clerk and legislators will have the final say.
• With Arcadia Aviation apparently out of business, the Legislature unanimously agreed to have John Nichols resume his duties as the county airport’s fixed base operator, providing fuel and maintenance services.
His Woodstock Aircraft Services company will remain in that capacity until December 31 or until a new long-term agreement is struck.