The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

December 4, 2013

Rainy-day funds in danger of drying up

The Daily Star

---- — Municipalities, organizations, businesses and families have a lot in common in that they all feel a lot more comfortable if they have put something away for a rainy day.

The trouble for many of them around here is that it’s raining, and it has been for quite some time.

That has meant that in order to keep the roof from leaking, they have had to reach into their rainy-day fund again and again.

Everybody knows that’s no way to run a city, a nonprofit organization, a business or a family, but we don’t have to look far to see it happening.

The city of Oneonta has been warned time and again by Mayor Dick Miller that there’s no future in making the annual budget work by tapping into the reserve fund.

There would seem to be those in Otsego County government who believe that all their financial problems will be solved with the impending exit from the Montgomery-Otsego-Schoharie Solid Waste Management Authority and sale of Otsego Manor, the county nursing home.

That’s apparently why the county board decided to give raises to non-union county workers and certain elected officials in its proposed $125 million budget for 2014. We don’t dispute that it would be nice to bump up the workers’ pay. After all, they haven’t had a raise since 2008.

But there’s nice, and then there’s need. Is this the time when the county needs to make this happen? Otsego Treasurer Dan Crowell seems sanguine about the county being able to afford the long-overdue raises. But with the Manor still draining millions of dollars from the budget, taxpayers don’t want budget lines seen through rose-colored glasses.

And then there is the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schoharie and Otsego Counties.

Don Smyers, the program’s executive director, went before the Otsego board at a public hearing recently to see if the county couldn’t part with more than the proposed $125,000 it will give Cornell for 2014. His chances don’t look good.

In 2011 and again in 2012, the program was getting $175,000 from Otsego County.

But that was before it started raining so hard.

The allocation was cut in the 2013 budget and again for 2014.

“In recent years, we’ve seen a real seesaw of financial support,” Smyers said, “and it’s made it difficult to deliver quality programs.”

Smyers said his agency is expected to spend nearly $40,000 from its reserves this year to keep programs operating.

“I’m not sure how much longer we can do that,” he said.

Just as families shouldn’t raid their 401(k) or IRA too often, those with bigger budgets may find that those rainy-day funds can get washed away if they’re not very, very careful.