The Genesee County Economic Development Center can generate a lot of money for itself, Legislator Ray Cianfrini said Wednesday, so he would like the county legislative body to start looking at how much this Industrial Development Agency gets from the county budget.
"I just think we should look very close at their budget and revenue," Cianfrini said. "I’m sensitive to the fact that we had to cut a lot of things out of the budget for nonprofits that do not generate revenues and they’re hurt by the fact that we cut them."
His comments followed a Ways and Means Committee meeting in which a resolution was approved authorizing the county to accept, on GCEDC's behalf, a $750,000 state grant to help bring a mushroom farm to the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.
While Cianfrini was less direct about his concerns during the meeting, afterward, he said, yes, he does question bonuses being paid to GCEDC's executives while the county is providing $234,000 in supplemental funding to the agency.
"I personally received a lot of phone calls from constituents," Cianfrini said. "This riles them and they’re angry over the bonuses. I think that maybe that I, as a legislator, and we as legislative board, should be looking at GCEDC a little more closely and say, 'if you have the money to pay the bonuses, should we be funding you at the current level?' "
The bonus issue has been controversial for a year now, sparked by a state audit report that questioned the method of bonus disbursement, and it reignited a month ago when $120,000 in new bonuses were announced.
At the same time, the county has been forced to cut some programs, such as Meals on Wheels.
Cianfrini used the mushroom farm grant as an example of how GCEDC and its nonprofit Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp. generate significant profits.
With the $750,000, GCEDC will be able to sell the land for the mushroom farm and make a profit, make a loan and get the principle repaid plus interest, and collect a $16,000 fee for the operations expense of putting the deal together.
"This is a great moneymaker for the LDC," Cianfrini said. "And what do they put into it? Nothing. What are they going to get out of it? A lot.
"I just wanted people to understand how this works," Cianfrini added. "The state puts up the money. We dispurse it. They get to loan it out. They get income, they get revenue, they get operating expenses."
Cianfrini said the GCEDC executives are well compensated for what they do, but he's opposed to bonuses.
"If they continue to pay bonuses, then I’ll look at their funding and see if it's legtimate," Cianfrini said.