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May 19, 2016 - 9:15am

Legislators push back on increase in county share to fund GCC

posted by Howard B. Owens in GCC, schools, education, news.

Amidst concerns that the Genesee Community College Board of Trustees tends to pass budgets before consulting with local legislators on how much the county can afford to contribute, the Public Services Committee yesterday tabled a resolution calling for a $50,000 increase in the county's share of college revenue.

The college is planning a $40.5 million budget for 2016/17, with the county's share totaling $2,586,374.

That's a $50,000 increase over this year's county share.

"It really bothers me that your board has set the budget, rather than come to us first and say, 'hey, look, how much can you afford to come in with," said Ray Cianfrini, chairman of the Legislature and a member of the Public Service Committee. "It bother's me that the board has determined how much we're spending before we even had a chance to look at it."

The county share is mandated by state law, and it can't be reduced below the prior year's share. College President Jim Sunser said if the Legislature reduced the county share by even $1 from the prior year, the college, by law, would be forced to cut tuitions.

"We'd lose 20 percent of our revenue and we'd be out of business," Sunser said.

The college has until July 1 to present its final budget to the SUNY administrators, giving the county time to consider further what it might want to approve and find out if legally whether the county can approve the county share without an increase now, but add more to the pot later in the year when it adopts its own 2017 budget.

One issue, Sunser noted during his initial presentation, because it's come up before, is that the college and the county budget calendars are out of sync. The college operates on an academic year and the county operates on a calendar year.

Sunser suggested the county adopt a five-year plan, knowing in advance that the plan is to increase the county share by $50,000 each year, but that plan can be modified annually if circumstances for the county or the college drastically change.

He also suggested, but it didn't seem to get any uptake from legislators, that the county approve this year's budget with no increase but with a plan to increase the share by $75,000 each of the next two years and than $50,000 in each of the following two years, thereby averaging an annual increase of $50,000 over five years.

One concern committee Chairman Bob Bausch raised is that the county is looking at a mandated pay increase for the district attorney of $27,705. The county is fighting the mandate, but if it loses, the resulting property tax increase, if approved, would push the county to the state's 2 percent cap limit. There would be no room for an additional $50,000 share to the college.

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