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Audit And Control Issues Budget Directive
May 12, 2011 - Dunkirk OBSERVER
Posted by Nicholas L. Dean
The seven members of the Audit and Control Committee issued a joint press release today.
The Audit and Control Committee oversees the entirety of the legislature's budget review process each year. It's the committee that's charged with crunching the numbers and presenting a balanced budget back to the full body for vote.
The committee is currently comprised of Chairman Jay Gould, R-Ashville; Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown; Jerry Park, R-Forestville; Tom DeJoe, D-Brocton; Doug Richmond, R-Westfield; John Runkle, R-Stockton and John Gullo, D-Fredonia.
What follows is the full text of the press release issued today by the committee:
The Audit and Control Committee of the Chautauqua County Legislature met for its first "work session" meeting Thursday, May 5, 2011 and asked all of the Standing Committees of the Legislature to review the Non-Mandated Programs and Services provided by the County and suggest areas for cutting $2.5 Million.
Audit and Control Committee Chairman, Jay Gould, stated: "This is just a starting point, and the final cuts from non-mandated programs and services will almost certainly need to be more, but if we can come to consensus on $2.5 Million in cuts we have gotten an early start on solving our crisis."
Discussed at this Committee Meeting was a rough estimate of the local share (cost) of Non-Mandated Programs and Services at approximately $10 Million. "Cutting one-quarter of that is now the goal of this Committee. That goal was set unanimously by this Committee in a bipartisan manner, without politics, but with common sense." stated Mr. Gould.
The Standing Committees are to report back on their proposed cuts by July 21 in order to give them the time to make thoughtful inquiry and analysis. Committee Member Doug Richmond commented that "Some Departments are already cut as far as possible. In some instances, we could cut local share for a small amount and lose a much larger amount of money that we need to perform mandated services." For this reason, an across-the-board percentage cut for each department was rejected for the time being.
This May 5th Work Session is an additional monthly meeting agreed to be held by the Committee to address the financial issues facing the County in a proactive manner. "We plan to look at the issues in a deeper manner than has been the case in the past so that when the County Executive presents us with his proposed budget at the end of September, we are as ready as we can be to suggest alterations to the budget." stated Committee Member Tom DeJoe.
"The County Executive is charged with providing the Legislature with a proposed Budget by October each year. The Audit and Control Committee's job is to review that proposed Budget and make recommendations to the full Legislature as to it. We want to be ready to do that job." said Committee Member Jerry Park.
The Committee discussed widely the various ways in which it could proceed to accomplish its goals. Legislator Nazzaro noted that over $10 million in fund balance reserves were used to balance the 2011 budget. "This practice cannot continue when preparing future budgets or the undesignated fund balance of the County will be depleted. If anything, Nazzaro added, the $5.8 million in reserves set aside for GASB 45 post employment benefits that were used to balance the 2011 budget should be replenished." Nazzaro said that he and the other Audit & Control members are very concerned that such practices have put the future financial viability of the County in jeopardy.
"We recognize that the first line of oversight of the business of the County are the standing committees of the Legislature. These Committees know our County Departments best and should be the ones to make initial recommendations as to cuts." stated Committee Member John Runkle. "They can make policy decisions as to which programs or services can be cut to meet this goal of $2.5 Million. We need their help because they know these programs and services best." Mr. Runkle continued.
"This is only our first work session. We set a goal. We decided upon a method to achieve that goal. It's only a start, but it's a good start. If we are able to come to consensus as to $2.5 Million in cuts, it's worth the time." commented Committee Member John Gullo.
The Audit and Control Committee is comprised of Jay Gould, Chuck Nazzaro, Jerry Park, Tom DeJoe, Doug Richmond, John Runkle and John Gullo. It meets the first and third Thursdays of each month at 8:30 a.m. The public is always welcome to attend.
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Members of the County Legislature's Audit and Control Committee talk with Legislature Chairman Fred Croscut, R-Sherman, in this photo from the 2011 budget review process last fall