Cayuga County Budget Hearing

9-year-old Payton Youngers addresses the Cayuga County Legislature at Thursday night's 2015 budget hearing. Youngers was there to request funding for the Big Six Picnic.

"The motion is defeated."

That was the most common phrase uttered during the Cayuga County Legislature's 2015 budget hearing Thursday night. It was a meeting where legislators floated a lot of ideas and amendments to the budget, but passed only a small portion of them.

But before legislators discussed anything, they heard out the public. Five people in total spoke, in a meeting that one of the speakers, Bill Balyszak, said showed a lack of civic engagement in the county.

"This is a public meeting, right?" Balyszak said. "Where's the public?"

Balyszak continued on to tell the Legislature that its decision to go over the tax cap provides a "double whammy" to residents: first in the increase in taxes they have to pay, and then in the rebate check from the state they will no longer receive. 

Balyszak also questioned the Legislature's decision to veer away from County Administrator Suzanne Sinclair's 2015 budget proposal, which called for about 30 job cuts and a tax levy increase under the cap.

The current proposal —coming in at around $142 million — calls for four jobs to be cut and a tax levy increase of 2.9 percent. 

"You've negated the work that you hired [Sinclair] to do," Balyszak said. 

Two participants in the Cayuga County 4-H Youth Development program spoke as well. They both requested funds for the Big Six Picnic.

Nine-year-old Payton Youngers, of Scipio, said the picnic provided her with opportunities to speak with people about agriculture.

Katie Bower, 16, of Union Springs, said the picnic and other 4-H programs helped her interest in agriculture grow. She said she hopes to study agriculture at Cornell University and return to Cayuga County to work in the industry.

"Please vote not only to fund the Big Six, but to develop your No. 1 industry — agriculture — and your No. 1 asset: youth," Bower said.

David James, representing the Cayuga County Fire Advisory Board, requested the Legislature reinstate a part-time deputy fire director position currently slated to be cut.

A motion was proposed to try to satisfy both requests — plus reinstate a sheriff's office deputy position slated to be cut — by taking the funds for it from the Cayuga Economic Development Agency. The motion called for $34,000 to be taken from CEDA and given to the two departments to fund the positions, and then an extra $4,000 would be set aside for the Big Six Picnic. It was defeated.

The motion was one of several trotted out by various legislators that ultimately didn't gather enough support to pass. One resolution suggested by Chairman Michael Chapman called for two new patrol cars for the sheriff's office. While several amendments were made to find a way to fund the cars, each was voted down. 

The only resolution to pass was one to enter into the budget a series of cuts suggested by department heads and Sinclair. The cuts took money from a number of departments through small adjustments and reduced the amount the Legislature would draw from its fund balance to $127,254. 

The budget will likely go to a vote at the full Legislature meeting on Tuesday. 

In other news:

• A bill banning the spreading of natural gas waste on county roads passed through the Ways and Means Committee — which met following the public hearing. It will now be discussed and could be put to a final vote at Tuesday night's full Legislature meeting.

• The Ways and Means Committee also passed a resolution to give notice of a public hearing for a law that would establish a local motor vehicle tax

The resolution for the hearing will be discussed by the full Legislature Tuesday night. 

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Staff writer Ryan Deffenbaugh can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or Ryan.Deffenbaugh@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @Citizen_Deff.