County gets federal funding to help close tax gap

Kennedy

It the midst of continuing bad news about its 2020 budget, Otsego County finally got some good financial news Tuesday, courtesy of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. 

County Planner Tammie Harris told the county’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday, June 9, that the CARES Act will provide Otsego County with $867,683 as part of its $25 billion earmarked for municipal transportation funding. 

The board met via Zoom and broadcast the meeting on Facebook Live. 

Harris told the committee members the money is limited only in that it must be spent on transportation needs. She said it could be used to make up for lost revenues this year, including from Otsego Express or from the summer trolley route in Cooperstown, which is a partnership between the county, the village and Leatherstocking Trolley. 

Because of a loss of sales tax revenues, bed tax revenues and a projected loss of at least 20% in state aid and reimbursements during the pandemic and the state’s shutdown to combat it, Otsego County has projected a deficit of at least $12 million in its 2020 budget. In response, the county has laid off 59 full and part time employees, stopped several major construction projects, cut about 5% from almost all county departments and instituted a hiring freeze.

Tuesday, County Treasurer Allen Ruffles told the IGA Committee he has gone back to all of the county’s department heads and asked them to try to cut another 10% from their budgets. 

“I will say that not every department got to 10%, but every department is doing what they can to get there,” he said. 

Board of Representatives Vice Chair and IGA Chair Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick, Milford, New Lisbon, said she appreciates how hard the department heads have worked to cut what they can and lay off who they must while still keeping their departments functioning. 

“These are troubling times and we’re doing what we can to contribute to our priority of keeping some money in the bank account and our cash flow going,” Kennedy said. “It’s not easy to prioritize these things and it’s not easy to make the changes, but I appreciate the efforts that all of the department heads are making, and giving us guidance to give us a pathway into this uncharted territory.”

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