From the legislature: County budget presents many fiscal obstacles

— The Onondaga County budget presentation is just around the corner.

Each department will have an opportunity to come before the Ways and Means Committee and present their individual budgets. As chairman of the Health Committee, I have invited the various departments that report to my committee to come in ahead of time to lay out any potential issues they anticipate going into budget. The departments that report to the Health Committee are health, environmental health, medical examiner, long term care (Van Duyn), mental health, aging and youth and the Department of Social Services.

In April, our committee took a tour of the Center for Forensic Sciences. The state budget had just been adopted and it was apparent that funding would be cut to many of the health programs that we offer. At our July committee meeting, the medical examiner’s office announced that $400,000 in state aid had been cut for 2011. The county then becomes responsible for the gap in the budget for this year. I want to acknowledge the ME’s office for immediately soliciting grant funds to reconcile the deficit created by the cut in state aid. At our August committee meeting, we accepted more than $160,000 in grant funds.

At our August meeting, social services and mental health gave their pre-budget presentations. Social services announced that they are facing a $2 to $4 million budget gap from the reduction in federal stimulus funds. The last two years, the federal government has provided a subsidy to local communities to help defray the costs associated with the increased need for public assistance. In 2012, we will not receive any additional funding from the federal government. Our social services office is looking at all the options to reduce their budget including a possible reduction in some of the services provided.

The tentative budget will be proposed by County Executive Joanie Mahoney at 10 a.m. Sept. 14 in the Legislature chambers. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, the Ways and Means Committee will review the health departments.

Legislator Robert D. Warner represents the 13th district, which includes the towns of Van Buren and Elbridge, as well as a portion of the town of Camillus, in the Onondaga County Legislature. To contact him, call 435-2070.

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