Cortland County legislators should receive a proposed budget Oct. 5, Cortland County Administrator Rob Corpora said Tuesday, a process complicated by a lack of information from the state, except to expect 20% cuts in state funding.
“It may be delayed a week or so depending on funding information we receive from the state and their budget ‘withholds’ to the county,” Corpora said.
Corpora said not fully knowing what the state is going to do has been the most challenging part about putting together the budget this year.
“Currently, the state is taking 20% minimum off the top of 90% of all revenues they are sending the county,” Corpora said. “The state delaying sales tax remittance dates for the merchants when the pandemic started threw all the projections out the window that we would have used to project our sales tax revenues for next year.”
Corpora had previously told legislators that the county was looking at a $2 million loss in sales tax revenue -it got $17.4 million in 2019 — and an estimated $3.4 million loss in state aid, about 20%.
The schedule for the budget is also on track, Corpora said, noting the release of his proposed budget coincides with the timeline in which the budget was released last year by former Legislature Chairman Kevin Whitney.
“Mr. Whitney did issue a ‘draft tentative budget’ in mid-September last year asking for legislators to provide input before the official tentative budget was released in October,” Corpora said.
Department budgets were due to Corpora by the end of August. After that, Corpora said he works with department heads to craft the budget. Once the proposed budget is given to legislators, they will hammer out the details and determine whether they want to cut or add items by resolution, Corpora said.
Legislature Minority Leader Beau Harbin (D-Cortland) said Friday he had not heard anything about what meetings will take place regarding the budget. However, he said the Buildings and Grounds Committee — which he chairs — would meet with department heads to discuss their budgets.
“But that’s a piecemeal approach,” he said, noting he did not want to see what happened last year happen again.
Last year, legislators had few budget meetings and trimmed only $40,000 from the proposal. Harbin said he would like to see the Legislature go through the budget more extensively before the budget is adopted by Dec 20.
“The members of the Budget and Finance Committee are all chairpersons of the various committees. I thought that was designed so that the B&F members would be included in the budget process,” said Kelly Preston (R-Homer), chairwoman of the Personnel Committee. “We have not met as a group to discuss the budget and it looks like once again legislators will budget under pressure.
Harbin said he wants to see the Legislature to discuss the budget as soon as possible given a presentation Thursday by consulting agency Transpro on how to become more efficient and save money.
“I believe it’s incumbent upon us as a Legislature for us to get together as soon as possible to provide direction for the county administrator on what we want to see and where we want to move to,” he said.
Budget and Finance Chairman and Majority Leader George Wagner (RMarathon, Lapeer) couldn’t be reached for comment.
If a budget isn’t passed by Dec. 20, the proposed budget becomes the 2021 budget, Corpora said.