MAYVILLE - A seven-piece proposal to cut from the Human Services category of the county budget failed to pass committee Wednesday.
On the legislature's third day of budget review, Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, motioned to cut $248,500 from throughout his committee's portion of the tentative 2012 budget.
In specific, Ahlstrom's single motion was to cut $54,000 from Social Services; $10,000 from Veterans Services; $30,000 from Public Health; $106,000 from Probation; $13,500 from Mental Hygiene and $35,000 from the Office For The Aging.
Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, talks with Mark Tarbrake, D-West Ellicott, during Wednesday’s budget review.
Nicholas L. Dean
"This is based on the local share costs before Medicaid," Ahlstrom said of his proposal.
For Social Services, the $54,000 cut would equal 10 percent - which Ahlstrom said could likely be made up through the elimination of one employee. In terms of the cut to Probation, Ahlstrom said that the $106,000 number is the amount by which the department is set to increase from 2011 in the 2012 budget.
Made as one motion, Ahlstrom's proposal failed to pass the Human Services Committee in a 3 to 2 vote with only Vickeye James, D-Jamestown, supporting the idea.
The motion was opposed by Committee Chairman Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott; Jay Gould, R-Ashville; and Scot Stutzman, I-Jamestown.
Immediately following the failure of Ahlstrom's proposal, both Gould and John Runkle, R-Stockton, asked whether Ahlstrom could return Friday to meet with the Audit and Control Committee.
Though defeated by the Human Services Committee, Gould said Ahlstrom's proposal will be discussed Friday morning - as will all of the proposals made during the three days of budget review. On Monday, legislator Rudy Mueller, D-Lakewood, made four proposals, only one of which passed the Public Safety Committee. Other lawmakers similarly had proposals both pass and fail in other meetings this week. All of those ideas could still be worked into the tentative 2012 budget on Friday, as well as by legislators on the floor of the legislature later this month.
Of all the department heads interviewed Monday through Wednesday, Audit and Control intends to only call back two on Friday - Cheryl Gustafson of CARTS and George Spanos, county Department of Public Facilities director.
In proposing his set of seven cuts, Ahlstrom said department heads need to take a look at what services the county maybe should not be providing.
He pointed to a slide which was in the departmental presentations to the Human Services Committee on Wednesday, a slide which said: The proposed budget supports the same level of service and programs that are currently being provided.
"I don't think that we can support that, that the taxpayers can support the same level of service and programs that are currently being provided," Ahlstrom said. "I think that the public is asking for... Actually, I think the public is demanding that we cut the cost and they realize that that is going to correlate to a cut in the program and the services that we do provide."
The bulk of the county's budget is spent on items which fall under the purview of the Human Services Committee. According to Gould, who chairs the Audit and Control Committee in addition to serving on Human Services, a total of 68 percent of the budget goes through Human Services. Of that though, according to Majority Leader Larry Barmore, R-Gerry, about 50 percent of the county budget is Human Services items which are mandated by the state and cannot be addressed or cut by the legislature.