Sep 21, 2011 Ami Olson Uncategorized
When County Executive Joanie Mahoney presented her tentative 2012 budget last week to the Onondaga County legislature, she included long-term plans that would require arts and cultural agencies to secure outside funding before the county would appropriate funding for projects, events and operations.
Legislature chairman Jim Rhinehart said in doing so, Mahoney showed she’d been listening to one of the legislature’s major concerns: shifting funding of authorized agencies from a system of “handouts” to one that would force agencies to seek outside monies instead of relying solely on the county budget.
Mahoney’s $1.2 billion budget keeps the county property tax levy steady at $153.8 million in 2012.
Onondaga County is on “firm financial footing,” Mahoney said during her budget presentation Wednesday, Sept. 14, in spite of Gov. Cuomo’s 2-percent tax cap without mandate relief, which she called “a disaster,” and the $260 million the county is expected to pay for those mandated programs in 2012.
Included in her proposed budget was a solution for addressing long-term, recurring expenses, like funding arts and culture organizations referred to in the budget as “authorized agencies.”
Mahoney’s budget would funnel 21.79 percent of the county’s room occupancy tax revenues, estimated to total $1,187,023 in 2012, into funding for authorized agencies, which include performing arts groups, venues, museums and events.
Mahoney said in the past, room occupancy tax revenue was already being used to fund those agencies, but last year the money was allocated to items in the operating budget, like county parks.
The Cultural Resources Trust stepped in to help out those agencies who lost funding as a result, but that money has dried up.
The public hearing on the 2012 tentative Onondaga County budget will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, in the Legislative Chambers, room 407 of the county courthouse.
The full legislative session to consider the budget will be at 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, also in the Legislative Chambers.
“The approach of using a set percentage will incentivize these organizations to provide events that will help increase hotel room usage in Onondaga County,” said Mahoney in an email.
“This helps the actual dollar amount they receive increase while also providing a positive economic impact to the community. People who come into the county for an overnight also use our restaurants and shop so it is an economic engine for us.”
Rhinehart was happy to see Mahoney take into account a problem the legislature has been struggling with, which peaked last year when the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, an authorized agency, went bankrupt and closed its doors.
Rhinehart said he made the suggestion to Mahoney that the county pursue a matching system that would require an organization to show they’ve already taken the initiative to find funding from outside sources before they ask the county for money.
He said under the proposed system, an authorized agency would be required to raise half of the total funding it is seeking, before requesting the additional money from the county.
As before, releasing the money would be at the legislature’s discretion.
“We’ve got to try and get away from sort of handout situation,” Rhinehart said. “If the legislature funds these agencies, there’s going to be some benchmarks that must be met.”
Ami Olson is editor of The Eagle. Reach her at email@example.com.