Supervisors grapple with budget

Fulton County Public Health Director Irina Gelman listens to 2018 budgetary concerns at a meeting of the county Board of Supervisors' Budget Review Committee Thursday at the County Office Building in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — Financing for public health, economic development and sales tax for 2018 were brought up at a Fulton County Board of Supervisors’ Budget Review Committee Thursday morning at the County Office Building.

Supervisors are fine-tuning accounts to be included in the county’s tentative 2018 budget that will be released Nov. 13.

County Public Health Director Irina Gelman was asked about her department’s proposed budget.

“It seems like revenues are declining a little bit,” said county Administrative Officer Jon Stead.

The committee discussed the high cost of the county Public Health Department’s Preschool Education Program, which is mandated and for which the county receives Medicaid reimbursement. Gelman said there were 27 children in the county program as of September, but “historically” there are 45 to 55 children.

“We’re only allowed to claim for the services provided the children,” Gelman said.

She said the county pays 100 percent of the cost of services recommended through the Preschool Education Program, but the county only gets reimbursed for the actual sessions the child actually attends.

“There’s no way to determine whether any of these programs are positive or not,” said Bleecker Supervisor David Howard.

During the session, supervisors cut small amounts from proposed, temporary 2018 budget accounts. They included: cutting $800 — from $5,000 to $4,200 — for the county Probation Department’s travel. A civil defense account was cut by $1,000; but an idea to cut overtime through the Veterans Service Agency was not acted on.

One of the larger cuts was $10,000 from the county Planning Department’s reimbursement to the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency. The IDA, which owns the Tryon Technology Park, currently has county Planning Director James Mraz as its director.

Stead said Mraz may retire in 2018, but a proposal supported through the committee system is to have Mraz serve as a private consultant for the IDA for six months after he retires.

A motion recommended by Johnstown 3rd Ward Supervisor James Callery, and passed by the committee, was to cut the county reimbursement to the IDA from $30,000 to $10,000 for 2018.

“I think it’s too much [of a reduction],” said Johnstown 4th Ward Supervisor William Waldron.

During a break in the meeting, county officials contacted Mraz, who indicated a $10,000 cut instead of $20,000 would be more in order. He said the reimbursement funding is used for such items as “insurance and mowing,” Stead said. The committee then passed another motion to make the cut only $10,000 not $20,000 to the IDA.

The committee also reviewed what to do with a new revenue stream coming into the county as a reserve — hotel/motel occupancy tax funding. A local law was established this year for the funds, which by law must be channeled toward economic development and tourism. As of recently, the county had collected $50,200 in the reserve. Supervisors grappled with how much to budget for 2018, eventually deciding on $75,000.

County Treasurer Terry Blodgett was also called into the meeting to go over some sales tax figures and scenarios for next year.

“Right now, we’re up 1.2 percent from last year, which isn’t a lot,” Blodgett said. “We’re headed in the right direction.”

The treasurer said third quarter sales tax figures just came in. He said total Fulton County sales tax decreased from $5.58 million in 2016 to $5.53 million for 2017.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at