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With the economy the way it is and more people looking for services, we?re hurting the people that really need the help.

Essex County re-thinks agency cuts

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Essex County supervisors are reconsidering a plan that would slash payments to outside agencies by 10% in next year's budget. The change of heart came this week after Cornell Cooperative Extension Executive Director Anita Deming spoke to supervisors at a public hearing.

The supervisors are struggling to reduce a tax increase estimated at 10%, but told them loss of the county money would affect jobs, and hurt popular agriculture programs, including 4-H and Adirondack Harvest. Martha Foley has more.

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Essex County supervisors are reconsidering a plan that would slash payments to outside agencies by 10 percent in next year’s budget.

The change of heart came this week after Cornell Cooperative Extension Executive Director Anita Deming spoke to supervisors at a public hearing. 

Deming said the cuts would cost her agency more than 20 thousand dollars. “It’s very important to the extension as we use the funding from the county as our stable base from which we build all of our other programs,” she said. “When we’re cut 10 percent it has a ripple effect across all of our other programs.”

Twenty thousand dollars is a small fraction of the Extension service’s 1.1 million dollar budget.  But Deming said the cuts would mean staff cuts and fewer programs. “We still have to pay the heat, electric and the phones, so it really comes down to people and that’s where we would have to cut,” she said. “I think we have some very significant programs that we do provide to the county. The funding that the county provides is primarily used in agriculture; Adirondack Harvest, 4-H youth development, etc.”

The county partially funds 19 contract agencies, ranging from soil and water conservation programs to an organization that runs the county fair.

Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow says he will introduce a resolution to restore the funding when the board meets next Tuesday. “I’m doing a plea to the supervisors – and I will be bringing this resolution to the floor on the 7th – to add the 10 percent back to these contract agencies,” he said. “With the economy the way it is and more people looking for services, we’re hurting the people that really need the help.”

But Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava, who chairs the county’s Finance Committee, pointed out that cooperative extension workers are slated to receive a 3.5 percent raiser next year.

He argued that outside agencies could reduce expenses by giving up raises and tightening their belts. “Everyone needs to share the pain, here,” he said. “I’m not in favor of cutting any agency. But we continue to provide that level of funding while I’m going back to my town employees and tell them they aren’t going to get raises. I come out here and have to vote for 3.5 percent raises. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

County Chairman Randy Douglas from the town of Jay said Tuesday he’s still on the fence, “If there’s a resolution that comes to the floor to put the percent back in, I’m not going to pick and choose. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to support it across-the-board,” he said. “I’m going to have to wait and see, but the impact is minimal when you look at the size of the budget we have.”

Restoring all the cuts to outside agencies would cost the county about 76 thousand dollars.  The total budget is roughly 99 million dollars.

Essex County officials say residents will likely face a 10 percent increase in their property taxes next year.  

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