MALONE — Franklin County may eliminate much of its Tourism Office, slash in-home services to seniors and end underused public-transportation routes.
The 13 recommendations made by County Manager Thomas Leitz during a work session Wednesday would save around $1 million and take about 7 percent off a possible 30-percent-or-higher tax-levy increase in the 2012 budget.
The $350,000 tourism budget would be cut to $100,000, leaving just enough to cover the cost of advertising and promotional materials matched by state funding.
The duties would go to Industrial Development Agency Executive Director John Tubbs and his assistant, Fawn Tatro, and would need IDA Board approval.
Tourism Director Neil Seymour is retiring Sept. 19, and IDA secretary Rose Hiscock is retiring at the end of the year.
The county learned it received $11,600 of the $40,000 grant it sought to study the feasibility of creating a planning entity.
If the terms allow, legislators want Tubbs to use the money to research planning, which might mean contracting with a grant writer or hiring an economic-development specialist at the IDA.
The Office for the Aging Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly Program provides non-medical services, such as light housekeeping and help with personal hygiene, to people 60 and older who don't qualify for Medicaid.
The program helps people retain independence and remain in their homes instead of going to nursing homes.
Leitz said the program's $102,160 budget would be cut in half in 2012.
Saranac Lake Democrat Timothy Burpoe was concerned that the move might hasten a person's need for nursing-home care and be more expensive in the end.
Other Office for the Aging cuts reduce contracted services to 2011 levels and require use of the same pre-cooked meals used the County Jail. Both measures would save almost $100,000.
SCHOOL DRUG AID
North Star Behavioral Services personnel visit local schools to talk about substance-abuse prevention. But the county could save $25,000 in Community Service funds by ending its support.
Some legislators believe school districts should pick up the cost, and Leitz said he is going to research State Department of Education regulations about that.
Public Transportation fares would go up $1, and routes with little ridership would end under Leitz's proposals.
He said the county could make about $80,000 with the fare hike, which needs State Department of Transportation approval.
Public Transportation costs more than $950,000 a year, and trimming expenses would involve reducing routes. A run between Paul Smith's College and Tupper Lake was already ended for lack of ridership, and others will be studied.
Another option is to increase the cost for on-demand rides that are provided a prescribed distance off the scheduled routes.
Former Transportation Director and current Personnel Director Paul Duffee reminded legislators that on-demand service is in place for those who are handicapped, and funding could be jeopardized if on-demand rides for them are cut back.
The Highway Department would not hire as many seasonal workers in 2012 as it has this year; the proposal would save about $350,000, Leitz said. He said some do county jobs, but the rest of them work for municipalities that do not pay anything toward the cost.
Towns also do not reimburse the county when its highway workers take a broken piece of heavy machinery in for repairs for a municipality. The trips are sometimes as far away as Watertown, but there is no cost charged to towns.
MORE BULK MEALS
Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill is phasing in a new food-service program, Cook-Chill, that provides pre-cooked meals for inmates at a significant savings a few times a week.
The county might require him to serve the food all the time, even though inmates have complained that some of the food tastes bad.
Legislators had little sympathy for that argument, especially Malone Democrat Gordon Crossman, who said accused and convicted criminals are dictating food choices while Franklin County Nursing Home residents have to eat what they get.
But Burpoe said the sheriff needs to balance the meals with the safety and security at the jail, reasoning that inmates eating food they like are less likely to act out or cause problems.
The county provides about $20,000 to the Franklin County Snowmobile Association for equipment but may temporarily take that funding away for 2012.
Leitz said he knows how important grooming is to trail maintenance, but when he looked at other small budget items, such as North Country Lifeflight and Hospice, "those are health and human-service related. This is not."
Burpoe said the association would compromise and be "a team player" during these tough budget times.
Email Denise A. Raymo at: email@example.com