PENN YAN — Yates County legislators had to answer some tough questions Monday as they worked to pare down the county’s capital plan.
Should they buy new locks for the jail and new security equipment? What about investing in new, federally mandated radios and repairing deteriorating roads? Should they replace a roof that might be 60 years old or wait until it starts leaking and becomes an emergency?
All of the items sounded necessary, and legislators said the plan had already been cut to bare bones. But with a $5.5 million budget gap, they had to find more cuts somewhere.
Ultimately, the legislators identified about $560,000 that they can at least look at, and about $20,000 that County Administrator Sarah Purdy believes she can cut for sure.
The Legislature approved the $3.6 million capital plan over the summer. Last week, when Purdy presented her first draft of the budget, she suggested taking another look at it.
The Finance Committee agreed to hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss it. Because that session was held after the regular Legislature meeting, the entire Legislature attended.
“We all know what we’re facing, and it’s been suggested that we take one more look at capital plan items,” Finance Committee Chairman Tim Dennis said before Purdy ran through the capital plan, item by item. “We’re facing a considerable budget shortfall.”
Purdy said an $89,097 line item for information technology hardware and software could probably be cut to about $70,000, and perhaps by more.
Other possible cuts included:
• Roof replacement at the sign and radio communications shop, $108,000. The roof is probably 50 or 60 years old, but it isn’t leaking. However, an adjacent building has a larger roof of about the same age that may need replacing soon, so legislators want to keep money for the first roof in this year’s budget. Instead of funding it through the tax levy, they may fund it through a bond.
• Communications equipment needed to comply with new FCC rules, three line items totaling $450,000. The county is seeking grant funding to pay for the new tower batteries, two-way radios and portable radios.
“If we get that funding, all three of these go away [as items that need to be funded through taxes],” Purdy said. “If we don’t get that funding, my thought is, there is some money left in the communications project [fund] and some money left in the communications reserve.”
That might be enough to cover some scaled-back purchases, she said. Legislators suggested doing the project in phases and doing only what is absolutely necessary to comply with the FCC next year.
Left intact was money for road repair, jail locks, debt service, courthouse security equipment, replacement vehicles for the sheriff’s office and public health, replacement vehicles for the highway department and an airport runway project that will not have to be funded through the tax levy.
District III Legislator Daniel Banach described some as “pay me now or pay me later” purchases.