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Seneca County passes 2020 budget; amendment to adjust tourism funding fails

Supervisors adopt budget after amendment to tourism funding fails

By Josh Durso

Another year is in the books.

The Board of Supervisors held their final regular meeting of the year, adopting the 2020 budget. The $70.3 million plan was passed without much fanfare, and without any public speakers at a hearing held at the start of the session on Tuesday.

Only one member voted against a series of amendments to the budget, which were bundled with the actual adopting resolution.

Supervisor Cindy Lorenzetti, D-Fayette, introduced an amendment-to-the-amendment resolution, which included allocation of more than $434,000 to the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce for it’s role as official tourism promotion agency.

“I believe a flat amount is fair, and so do some others involved in tourism in this County,” Lorenzetti said introducing the amendment to cap funding for the County’s Tourism Promotion Agency at $434,824.25 over the next two years.

That motion received a second by Supervisor Paul Kronenwetter, R-Seneca Falls, which began a new debate. Supervisor Bob Shipley, R-Waterloo, who served his last regular meeting as board chairman on Tuesday challenged the amendment. “90 percent of room tax was already OK’d by the board,” he said. “I will vote ‘no’ and urge others to vote ‘no’ as well.”

County Attorney David Ettman did note during his remarks that several local laws needed to be looked at in the upcoming year. In his assessment that includes the local law that governs how room tax is used. Right now, Seneca County operates under the local law, which states that 90 percent of room tax will go to the County’s tourism promotion agency, which is the Chamber.

That local law was adopted prior to the opening of Del Lago Resort & Casino. When the Tyre-casino opened – room tax spike significantly, and has continued to grow with every year it is open.

Ettman said that one board can’t bind another board for a future budget year, which was a logistical roadblock for the Board. It didn’t stop several supervisors from voting for Lorenzetti’s motion, which required two-thirds majority vote to be included.

“Prior notice wasn’t provided on this amendment so that’s why it requires a two-thirds majority,” he explained.

The motion would require 352 weighted votes to pass, but only received 341. Supervisors Lorenzetti, Kronenwetter, Bob Hayssen, Walt Prouty, Ernie Brownell, and Don Trout voted for the measure.

As the measure died, Shipley said that the Board could consider changing TPA funding in 2020. “Let’s move on. If you want to change it next year – have at it,” he added.

The original resolution was then back on the table for discussion, which quickly concluded with a vote. Supervisor Lorenzetti was the only ‘nay’.

The tax rate was passed at $4.42 per $1,000 assessed value.

Other notes of interest:

– John Dendis, of Burgess Road spoke about ongoing concerns regarding Seneca Meadows Landfill. Specifically he spoke out about the Board of Supervisors’ decision to seek out legal counsel’s advice on “things they could do to stop” a proposed solar farm in Waterloo, which he says has no personal impact on quality of life.

– Outgoing Chairman Bob Shipley, R-Waterloo, thanked the supervisors for their support over his tenure. He’s served on the board since 2004. “On behalf of the entire Board of Supervisors, we thank you for distinguished years of service for the citizens of Seneca County,” Shipley said. “Record investment has given Seneca County a strong economy with one of the lowest unemployment rates in New York State and our property tax levy has been held flat for consecutive years. We are blessed to have both a dedicated county workforce as well as strong community leaders that share a common passion for making Seneca County a great place to live, work and visit.”

– Other outgoing supervisors including Lee Davidson, R-Waterloo; Walt Prouty, R-Ovid; Greg Lazzaro, R-Seneca Falls; and Lisa Hochadel, R-Waterloo received a round of applause at the conclusion of Chairman Shipley’s remarks for their own service.

– County Manager Mitch Rowe said that a successful ‘first meeting’ was held by the committee, which is tasked with getting state and federal funding for Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery named as New York’s first state-backed cemetery for veterans. Retired Sen. Michael Nozzolio, chairs that committee.

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