“It just happens that most of the outside agencies that we fund are related to tourism,” said Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Thomas Wood. “We’ve funded them in the past because we think they are important and that they do some real good for Saratoga County.”
But this year with such a significant gap to close in the budget, “We’ve got to deal with reality. We can’t put our heads in the sand,” said Wood.
One such agency facing a potential loss in funding is Saratoga Arts, which stands to lose all of its $7,500 in county support. That money is traditionally used to fund the fireworks display Saratoga Arts puts together for the New Year’s Eve First Night celebration.
“Right now we’re trying to look for alternative support,” said Joel Reed, Saratoga Arts executive director. “We’re surely not going to be able to find a single sponsor who is going to be able to come up with that amount on such short notice. But hopefully we’ll be able to appeal to numerous potential sponsors and see if we can cobble things together.”
Without county support, it’s possible that this year’s display will simply have to be scaled back. After all – less money means less fireworks. If Saratoga Arts takes money from its own pocket to cover the cost, less will be left for the organization to fund its programs for the rest of the year. Still, promised Reed, expect to see some type of display during one of the largest New Year’s Eve celebrations between New York City and Montreal.
“The fireworks will happen,” said Reed. “The question is, will we be able to find other support for it?”
While Saratoga Arts is in jeopardy of loosing $7,500 in county funding, Brookside Museum, home of the Saratoga County Historical Society, stands to lose the entire $12,500 sum it received in 2011.
“We were surprised to hear they cut us entirely from the budget,” said Brookside Museum’s Executive Director Joy Houle, who was notified only two days before the public meeting that the funds had been put on the chopping block. “We were surprised and a little scared, because taking that away entirely would have a very serious impact on what we do.”
If funds are cut entirely, the museum would likely close for the month of January, laying off all of their employees for the duration (last year the museum also had to close for the month, but all their employees continued to work offsite).
In light of these cuts, Brookside is also seeking additional support from private organizations and individuals. Visit http://www.brooksidemuseum.org and click on the “Support Us” tab to learn more.
Other outside organizations facing potential and significant cuts include Saratoga Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), which will see funding cut from $330,000 in 2011 to $200,000 in 2012. SEDC has helped to create and preserve thousands of jobs in Saratoga County.
Saratoga County Fair is slated to lose all $18,000 in its county funding; the Hudson-Mohawk Urban Cultural Park could lose its entire sum of $8,000; and most other outside organizations and agencies previously funded by Saratoga County are expected to see at least a 10
Along with cutting funding to outside agencies, a number of other options have been proposed as a way to close the roughly $8 million gap.
“There are a number of things that have been proposed, including retirees not receiving payment from the county for Medicare Part B insurance,” said Wood. “There’s also an increase in property tax. We have not made any decision on it, but that’s an option.”
For Saratoga Springs Supervisor Joanne Yepsen, cutting the funding for outside organizations is a difficult, but necessary, step for the county government to pursue.
“It’s always been a real priority for me to help cultural and non-profit organizations because they add not only quality of life value to these communities, but they’re picking up a lot of the services and programs that governments don’t offer,” said Yepsen, who indicated that she’d like to see at least partial funding restored for some of the programs.
“But although I fully support some of these programs and services that they’re offering, we can’t afford it. Even though some of these are small in price range, it’s very difficult now for the county to justify. If these agencies are not fully funded again, that will be because the supervisors have come to the conclusion that everybody has to share in the sacrifice.”
Still, with time left to amend the budget before Wednesday’s final vote, Yepsen acknowledged that, informally, the board has agreed to restore at least partial funding to some of the agencies. Which agencies and how much, however, remains to be seen.
“Everything is on the table,” said Supervisor Wood, as the chairman and the board continue to look for ways to close the budget gap. “We’re kind of trying to decide what the best option is for us and the county, but no decisions have been made yet.”