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Lewis legislators to consider restoring funding for libraries, agencies

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County legislators next week will consider whether to restore cut funding for libraries and other contractual agencies in their 2013 budget.

Legislator Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville, at Tuesday’s meeting plans to introduce a resolution to reverse $2,200 worth of proposed funding cuts to the county’s 12 libraries, along with Constable Hall, the American Maple Museum and the Railway Historical Society of Northern New York, with the extra expense to be covered through additional fund balance usage.

“I just think enough’s enough,” Mr. Hathway said.

Lewis County has significantly chopped outside agency funding over the past several years.

The county in its 2009 budget dropped funding for such agencies from $260,000 to $163,600, including a reduction to the county’s 12 public libraries from $63,938 to $25,000.

After a couple of years of stable payouts, county legislators in their 2012 budget implemented a 20 percent cut for most of the agencies, including a drop in library funding to $20,000, to mirror the cuts asked of county departments.

And the 2013 tentative budget, introduced earlier this month by County Manager David H. Pendergast, reduced that funding by an additional 10 percent. This year’s proposed reduction reflected legislators’ request for department heads to implement an additional 10 percent reduction for 2013, although most departments did not meet that goal.

The tentative spending plan would leave library funding at $18,000, which is nearly one-quarter of the amount received in 2008.

“We’ve cut them 72 percent,” Mr. Hathway said. “That’s a big cut.”

Libraries provide a service to the people in their communities, from children to senior citizens, he said.

“We’re always seeing the senior citizens bringing out three or four books that they wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise,” Mr. Hathway said.

Other agencies like Mountain View Prevention Services, the Lewis County Agricultural Society and the Lewis County Hospital Foundation are also slated for 10 percent funding cuts.

But Mr. Hathway said his proposal includes only the agencies he personally feels would be hurt the most by the planned cuts. “These are the ones I feel real strongly about,” he said.

The District 1 legislator next week also plans to float the idea of a 0.25 percentage point increase in the county share of sales tax — from 3.75 percent to 4 percent — to help offset increases in state retirement payments and other mandated items in future budgets.

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