Wednesday, November 24, 2010


What could be considered ancient history at this point, is the discussion held during the November 2nd Programs & Community Services Committee. Without recording the meeting myself, I have to wait for the minutes to be transcribed and sent out before I can effectively report on what was said with confidence and back up.

Chaired by Wayne Harris and Deputy Donaldson, we were faced with the same dilemma as every other committee in the Legislature: The impending cuts to each department. We were accompanied by representatives of some of those services we had to address. They are listed below.

GRACE THOMPSON, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
CHRIS SILVA, Bardavon 1869 Opera House, Inc./ UPAC
BENJAMIN KREVOLIN, Dutchess County Arts Council
JAMES COSGROVE, Ulster County Library Association
MARGIE MENARD, Ulster County Library Association
LEE REIDY, Executive Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension
MARY MARSTER, Director of Programs, Cornell Cooperative Extension
VIC MELVILLE, League of Women Voters

Larry Kithcart from Community Action couldn't make the meeting, but asked that the committee consider restoring the funding level to that service to where it was in 2009. 
(We are talking 15K here) 
After experiencing such a great Seniors Dinner at the midtown center in Kingston, back in October, you'd think the money invested would be worth it. NOPE. It was cut to 11K for 2011. Good grief. 

Margie Menard of the County Library Association was the next advocate to speak. For their department to function properly, they would need 12K annually. Margie noted that the 2011 budget set them at 67K. I find that to be unrealistic, but then we are dealing with cold numbers here rather than people and their quality of life. 
Margie said "The Board had made some cutbacks, but with incoming funds being held constant and with expenses constantly going up they were finding themselves worse off than last year."  
So it should be known that the cuts facing the County Library System will cause the elimination of, get this: tutoring programs and job search programs. Ulster County doesn't need help with job searches. I asked if I could see some figures on the job search program and would also like to know how many people use the Historic New York Times data base. Those details should have been in my mail slot by now.

Some of you might not know that Ulster County uses the services of the Dutchess County Arts Council to help our Artist organizations better seek and manage the resources available to them through state and federal grants. The DCAC also needs financial backing by both Dutchess and Ulster County taxpayers to administer these offices.

Benjamin Krevolin chimed in to say: "Ulster  County grants have been a huge boon to the arts and to the County itself.  Many of these artists and arts organizations have been under-funded for many years.  He said Ulster County, in all of the Mid-Hudson area, has been putting the least amount into the arts but has the most to gain in general." 
So I'm looking at the agenda hand-out and I see we are cutting the investment to the DCAC from 55K to 41K for 2011. So lets see...If the money spent is delivering a multiplied level of revenue in sales tax and tourism, we should put a stop to that?  That makes sense.

The funding by the county is used to administer the grant application process. The 2010 grant cycle offered 18 applications. Due to cuts in the 2010 budget, they were only able to reach for seven. Think for a second. If cutting the DCAC funding to 55K diminished the tens of thousands of Grant dollars coming to Ulster County, why would we jump at the chance to pull out even more? This is ridiculous.   

Ah, but don't worry, it gets better. We then went into the issue of defunding CASA. That's the Court Appointed Special Advocates. 
This is a service where child advocates (volunteers) invest their time and energy to help in family matters that would otherwise break up the family unit. In this I mean, troubled youth, unconcerned parents and the education system . 
Grace Thompson elaborated that for a small sum of $1,300 annually per child, we attempt to divert the more detrimental process of foster-care. Detrimental to the family members and the taxpayer's pockets. A year in foster-care costs the county 200K annually. 

At this time, CASA is attending to 110 kids. The cost is 85K annually. The department is seeking the same funding from the county it had in 2010. (Thats 25K) The Executive's proposal, having seen the numbers, offered 15K. Rendering the CASA team to attend to fewer troubled youth. Mind you, these clients are referred to CASA through the county Court system. It's not some band of gypsies seeking clients door-to-door to make them feel needed here. 
If this is a proven money saver, keeps kids out of our jail system and possibly keeps families together longer, then why would we cut something rather than increase the funding? I don't get it.

We touched on the UPAC funding issue quickly. Director Chris Silva spoke about the seating capacity of the two regional theaters and how UPAC closes during the summer because the AC system is inadequate. Other than that, having seen the lack of financial wisdom in the proposed budget and non-movement by the majority, we just passed over the slacker funding of 18K for what could be considered the anchor of midtown tourism. Who the hell cares, right? How short sighted can we get?

Getting back to grant writing, we got the scoop from Lee Reidy on Cornell Cooperative's financial standing and the diminished funding heading into 2011. From $275K to $266K, the cuts in programming will come from the 4H portion of the department. Granted, the county portion of their budget is less than 20%, but it's the part that subsidizes the grant writing operation. Without that, they lose much more, so once again, our youth will be cut out of the budget of yet another quality program. 
You must think I'm making this stuff up at this point. Noone can possibly cut programs that yield a higher revenue or diminish the potential expense for taxpayers with such disregard. Well, welcome to the 2011 Ulster County Budget.
Taken right from the minutes:
Dep. Chair Donaldson made a motion to restore some of the cuts made to these agencies.  He said he found the cuts to be penny wise but pound foolish, citing as an example, CASA where the cost of keeping a child in foster care can mount up to over $200,000 compared to spending approximately $1300 to provide  a CASA volunteer who will probably be able to keep that child in their home.

The motion on the floor made by Dep. Chairman Donaldson is to restore 2011 budget cuts  to requested funding as follows:

Court Appointed Special Guardians - cut from $25,000 to $15,00 – restore $10,000;
Dutchess County Arts Council - cut from $55,000 to $41,250 – restore $13,750;
Family of Woodstock Supervised Visitation Program - cut from $20,000 to
$15,000 – restore $5,000;
Bardavon 1869 Opera House, Inc./UPAC - cut from $25,000 to $18,750 – restore $6,250;
Ulster County Library Association – cut from $90,000 to $67,500 – restore $22,500; and
Cornell Cooperative Extension – cut from $275,000 to $266,475 – restore $8,525.

Dep. Chairman Donaldson said that the total cost of restoration of these budget cuts would be $66,025 which is .08 of 1% of the total budget.  He said he feels that these restorations can be made from sales tax revenues which he believes to be underestimated.

At this time Chairman Harris opened the floor for discussion on the motion. All of us made their case one way or the other. The majority struggling to hold onto the cuts as if the pennies saved were going to save the greater public anything but talking points. 
I ended up "|Seconding" Dave's motion to restore the anemic funding to 2009 levels. 

The results of the vote are: 
Donaldson, Madsen & Gregorius   -YES 
Belfiglio, Terrizzi, Hayes & Harris -NO. 
If this is where the county committees are going throughout the budget process, we are in a heap of trouble next year. |The short sighted actions of the Exec and Legislature will undoubtedly cause household hardship, diminished vital services and unforseen expenses down the road. Like Dave said, the revenue from sales tax estimates are super conservative and as recently as yesterday, CapTonight did a report on just how New York's consumer spending is drastically higher than expected. Ulster County included. Is this an attempt to force the department heads into future meetings to ask for funding from contingency? If so, it wont work, because those vital programs will not exist at that point.

Dave's latest amendment for an increase has dropped to 50K. His figure of .08 of 1% is even less that previously. This would have no affect on the 2011 budget. Where is the movement on the Legislature? 


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the writeup Mike. It is a lot to put together and it is greatly appreciated. NS

Anonymous said...

Isn't this Hein's budget?

Let him explain why UPAC has to close, why the Libraries have to reduce internet usage, why another child ends up in the emergency room because CASA is out of business, why 4-H and Cornell Co-Op are not at the fair (if there is one) this year.

Do not let him off the hook. If the moronic Republicans aren't going to do it, then you have too.
Who is going to stand up for people in need?

Anonymous said...

Eliminate Hein's political hookup in the Health Department and you can afford to increase all agency funding. Or you can let the good ole boy system stand and continue to punish local agencies that do great work.

Anonymous said...

This is tax payers $ we are talking about. People are being laid off from Government jobs all across the country, not just in UC. The Library gets taxpayers money from their own taxing district and still want more from the tax payer through the County budget. The contract agencies need to find ways to raise their own funds (all yr by fund raising) not keep coming back to taxpayers who have had enough. Please stop this insanity.

Anonymous said...

8:25... If you want to cut back on spending, you go after the low hanging fruit first. The big money and most corrupt departments would be DSS and RRA. Tremendous fraud losses there. The programs Mike is harping on in this post are the precise reasons we have government. Well besides infrastructure.
Let's go after the slugs doing the most damage first so you can continue doing the preventative work. Where is the leadership?

Anonymous said...

Not all Libraries have taxing districts.

Most of these agencies, which operate with a large portion of volunteers, should be helped. The fact that Hein thinks his high priced staff are more important that these services says a lot about his priorities and where he places value.

If the Legislature does not correct this, then they might as well stay home.

When are you people going to do what you were elected to do? Where are the checks and balances?

Anonymous said...

Maybe the legislature should take action to ammend the discretionary highering now allowed to the County Executive. Maybe,if you play a little bluff poker, he will get religion and stop nickel and diming folks who have little or no leverage to fight back.

Anonymous said...

There is one overriding fact at work here which is this:
This county--and yes it could be said of other counties across the state but particularly this county--has its economy arranged around 1)mental health and 2)the supportive industries including prominently Benedictine Hospital. That's a fact, and much of what is skewed in the local economy results from this fact.
It takes a much greater passion in people to effect a practical cure therefor than we've seen in "advocacy" which places patients' concerns at the bottom of the totem pole if those reach the totem pole at all--and a political cure for this "Nunsense" needs to involve counties stepping up and saying "in your face" to the sorts of state mandates that causes such an industry as mental health to go awry and hog wild over its own related business interests/vendors in same.
I can tell you right now the count is on the hook legally for this in one of a series of lawsuits I have pending over same.
Oh--and in case anyone wishes to talk the truth about what Kingston's budget supports---as usual the fire dept., which then in some ironic(yet not overall ironic fashion as per the "mental schmental" ethic)fashion per drunk firefighters who wind up on the psych. unit(because someone got overly drunk or such) at Benedictine, the "mental schmental industry"(and that's what it is, an industry, which accrues $50 billion per annum in this nation) is thus financially supported. This little economic game this area has going in supporting Benedictine Hospital is a whole bunch of Nunsense, but continues to be supported because without which evidently the entire local economy WOULD collapse. That's the dirty little secret no one wants to talk about--but more than one jury is going to hear about it, I can promise you that...
Somehow the phrase "home rule" comes to mind and instantaneously a fit of laughter rises up---"home rule" means nothing it seems when year after year leglislators turn a blind eye to such Nunsense and then wish to turn to blame someone or something else for any current catastrophe exeperienced. The state dictates mental schmental policy--and that is a joke also because no actual legal protection ever exists for anyone who finds themselves in that system particularly involuntarily. The system only cares about its self-perpetuation and is supported handsomely relative to the other interests such as libraries you listed. Shameful but quite true, sold to the public as some public safety protection but in reality is just another part of the psychophamraceutical-hospital-physician industry megalopoly.
What a joke!
Last week there was a boxing match at the Municipal Auditorium. However folks who know the utter CRAP that goes on in local yokel economics ought to be fighting a boxing match every day with those who would simply stand in the way of any true effort at reforming this mental schmental INDUSTRY Nunsense!

Anonymous said...

An interesting thread regarding the proposals from contract agencies for assistance. However, does anyone research how much duplication of services there is with any of these agencies? Shame on Mr. Kithcart for not making an appearance during the budget process. A representative from his office should have been present. Yes, his senior dinner was a success but maybe next year, ask seniors to donate $5toward the expense of hosting it.