WATERTOWN – A Jefferson County legislature is pushing to reverse some of the increases for nonprofits included in this year’s proposed county budget.
At the county’s finance and rules committee meeting Wednesday night, Legislator Patrick R. Jareo, R-Adams, who represents the towns of Hounsfield, Henderson and Ellisburg, urged lawmakers to consider such a cut, despite not making a motion put the proposal to actually change budget.
“I don’t have the support on this committee, but I’ll bring that up at the board meeting next week,” he said.
The proposed 2022 county budget includes a proposal to increase funding for all Jefferson County nonprofits by 3% of the total amount they received last year. The non-profit organizations are non-profit, non-governmental organizations that provide a public service to the community and thereby receive some government support. Among them are the County Historical Society, Jefferson County Fair, New York Zoo, Community Action Planning Council, and local libraries.
Most of these agencies have not requested increases in their funding this year, with the exception of the New York Zoo, the local library system, the Jefferson County Volunteer Center, and the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization.
Legislative Chairman Scott A. Gray stated that the 3% flat increases for the nonprofits were made to cover the increase in operating costs since 2018, when the establishments last received flat increases in county dues.
Mr Jareo said Thursday that most agencies had not requested an increase in the county’s contribution to their operations this year, and that they shouldn’t get it automatically.
“The proposed 3% increase has been proposed across the board, and most of them haven’t requested,” Jareo said. “If they don’t ask, then I don’t see why we should take property tax money and give it to these agencies.”
Mr Jareo said he did not support offering these authorities more money from taxes than they received the last time they received the county’s money.
For the agencies that requested an increase, Mr Jareo said that only the volunteer center should receive it. The volunteer center filed for $ 100,000 this year, a significant increase from the $ 26,530 it received in 2020 and the $ 27,326 included in this year’s budget proposal.
“I think we should increase their county contribution, they are very good service and need additional resources due to the pandemic,” he said.
However, Mr Jareo said the county should use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, of which it recently received over $ 10 million, to increase the volunteer’s contribution this year.
The three other agencies requesting increases shouldn’t get them, Jareo said. He said the New York Zoo in Thompson Park in Watertown received about $ 180,000 in a paycheck protection program loan last year that should have more than strengthened its operations. The zoo requested $ 60,500 from the county this year, more than the $ 54,101 it received in 2020 and 2021, but the county’s budget proposal calls for it to receive $ 55,724 in 2022.
Mr Jareo said the county libraries have other ways to get taxpayers money through their local school districts and should use this more direct route to funding. Libraries applied for $ 188,833 that year, but the budget proposal aims to receive $ 176,816, the 3% increase.
As for the FDRLO, Jareo said he wasn’t exactly opposed to the county providing additional support, even though the organization didn’t come up with an explanation to the county legislature as to why it requested $ 50,000 this year, double the amount im US $ 25,000 allocated in 2020 and US $ 25,750 in 2021. The proposed budget is for the county to allocate US $ 25,750 to the FDRLO in 2022.
“I want to keep all that money in people’s hands,” he said. “That belongs to the taxpayers”
Although he was unable to convince a majority of the finance and rules committee to support the cuts, Jareo said he believed he could convince a majority of all lawmakers to support the cuts ahead of Tuesday’s session .
“I’m pretty sure there is enough support there, I’ve spoken to my colleagues,” he said.
Lawmaker Philip N. Reed, R-Alexandria Bay, who represents the cities of Alexandria, Orleans and part of LeRay, said he was open to hear more during Tuesday’s meeting.
“I think it is well advised to increase the agencies’ dues when they have not asked,” said Mr Reed.
In the interests of taxpayers, he said, there should be a discussion about where best to spend the county’s money. With some agencies receiving additional funding from other sources, especially during the pandemic, Mr Reed said it was important to question whether to give them more money from the county as well.
“If they didn’t ask for more, it’s a fair question to ask why they got more,” he said.
Some board members are against Mr. Jareo’s proposal. Frances A. Calarco, R-Watertown, who represents the southwestern part of the city, said she supported the proposed budget with no changes.
“We have a budget officer, (County Administrator) Bob Hagemann, who knows the budget inside out and knows the needs,” she said. “He would know whether or not it is appropriate to give them a raise.”
Given that the agencies in question have not received an annual increase in the county’s funding for at least a few years, Ms. Calarco said it seemed appropriate to do so this year.
Legislators are expected to discuss the issue in detail at Tuesday’s session. If a majority approves Mr Jareo’s proposal, the budget will be modified and adopted with the changes taken into account.