Ways and Means Committee budget meeting

The Cayuga County Legislature Ways and Means Committee discusses proposed amendments to the tentative 2020 county budget during a meeting Thursday.

AUBURN — The Cayuga County Legislature Ways and Means Committee held the first of two special workshops Thursday to make amendments to the proposed 2020 budget.

The seven-person committee passed a resolution to cut instead of eliminate funding for the Cayuga Economic Development Agency, and decided not to eliminate funding for a possible county administrator position.

The tentative budget, which was presented to the full Legislature on Monday, includes $152.90 million in appropriations with a tax levy of $41.43 million. It was drafted by Legislature Chair Tucker Whitman, R-Sterling, along with county department heads and Budget Director Lynn Marinelli.

Joseph DeForest, D-Venice, brought a motion on Thursday to reserve $90,000 for an interim county leadership position that the Legislature can determine how to spend at a later time.

The Legislature terminated former County Administrator Justin J. Woods in June. The tentative 2020 budget proposed eliminating funds for the position, as well as that position's executive assistant and an administrator at the county Department of Public Works.

Though the resolution passed, not all the committee members were initially happy to keep the administrator issue open. "I want to address the issue. It's gone too far," said Christopher Petrus, R-Brutus, during discussion of the resolution.

The tentative budget included a provision that would shift $31,500 to nine public libraries. Ways and Means Chair Patrick Mahunik posed during the meeting that the funding could come from the libraries' own taxing districts, but the measure passed 4 to 3.

County Attorney Christopher Palermo told the committee he would need to consult the Legislature before drafting a contract with Nick's Ride 4 Friends that would allow the committee to legally fund the organization with $25,000.

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The committee couldn't arbitrarily give money to an organization without a contract, Palermo said.

Funding the Cayuga Economic Development Agency — which the tentative budget proposed eliminating funds for — was one of the first topics of discussion.

The agency would need $300,000 to continue for another year, CEDA Executive Director Tracy Verrier told the committee. Without it, Verrier estimated that CEDA would close within eight to nine months.

Ryan Foley, D-Auburn, said eliminating funding "sends an awful message" to small business owners and people outside the county.

Crystina Brooks, the solutions manager for Du Mond Ag. LLC and a CEDA board member, was also present at the meeting to advocate for the agency's funding.

She said the agricultural business, which grows corn, soybeans, and wheat on its farmland in Union Springs, secured a grant with CEDA's help and doubled its staff. "We were able to find money from the state, but through CEDA," she said.

The committee passed a motion posed by Paul Pinckney, R-Aurelius, to reserve funding for CEDA in the budget at $250,000, a cut that Foley said would raise a "very big question" about its future the following year.

The next special Ways and Means Committee meeting to workshop the 2020 budget will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14.

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Staff writer Mary Catalfamo can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or mary.catalfamo@lee.net. Find her on Twitter @mrycatalfamo.