October 28, 2021

County vets office funds slashed

Cortland County Seal

Funding for the Cortland County veterans service office will be cut nearly in half next year, eliminating an assistant’s position, if the county legislature approves the proposed county budget for 2020.

That budget slashes funding for the veterans office for next year from a requested $141,017 to $74,240; the office was budgeted $133,360 for 2019.

The decrease will also get rid the position now filled by veterans service counselor Harvey Borchardt.

The office currently has funding for two positions: The veterans service director, who is in charge of the office, and the veteran service counselor, who is essentially the assistant. Next year’s budget would cut the assistant.

The county’s proposed budget for 2020 would spend $142.8 million up 6.4% from this year’s $134.3 million. It would levy $36.7 million in property taxes, up 3.24 from this year’s $35.4 million. Legislators will consider adopting it Nov. 21.

The assistant, Borchardt, is the only one who is currently working full-time in the veterans office.

The former veterans service officer, Art Timmins, quit in August. His post is temporarily being filled on a volunteer basis by Carl Bullock, who retired from the job in 2018 after 19 years of service.

“He (Bullock) came back in free of charge. He’s just trying to move things along,” said Legislator Kevin Whitney (R-Cortlandville), the outgoing chairman of the legislature.

The proposed cut is “just based on our fiscal outlook,” he said. “The fact that we’re as short as we are.” He said the office originally had one employee, which had been increased to two. Given the county’s bleak financial outlook, “the decision was made to cut that office back to one,” he said.

The director must be appointed by the full legislature, Whitney said. That decision will not be made until the next legislature takes office in January. The position is state-mandated.

The county is accepting applications for the director position. Borchardt said he is one of the applicants.

More than 3,000 veterans live in Cortland County. The county veterans’ service office helps connect them with federal and state services, including assistance filing disability claims with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.