County Executive’s proposed budget includes approval system for funding arts, cultural agencies

— 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.

Save the date

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.

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