MALONE — Franklin County may restructure its tourism activities, explore more shared services and change public-transportation routes, all to save money in 2013.
County Manager Thomas Leitz said the budget he will submit by Oct. 1 has a tax-levy increase of about 16.7 percent before cuts are made.
DIVIDING THE FUNDS
During a budget session this week, he told legislators that reworking how tourism money is spent could leverage funding from other sources besides county taxpayers.
Rather than using the entire $141,765 budget on regional-tourism promotion, about $70,000 that is matched by the state could remain for regional promotion, while $25,000 could go toward a partnership with St. Lawrence County on fishing-related activities, $25,000 toward agricultural-tourism opportunities in partnership with Franklin County Cornell Cooperative Extension and $25,000 to contract for grant writers or consultants.
St. Lawrence County is promoting itself as a fishing capital of the world with its FISHCAP initiative and wants to expand its reach into Franklin County, Leitz said.
FISHCAP representatives are expected to attend the Sept. 20 County Legislature meeting to discuss the program and their expectations in Franklin County.
But Leitz said he will insist that if FISHCAP is awarded county money, a major fishing event must be held in Franklin County.
Agri-tourism is also gaining in popularity, and Cooperative Extension wants to work with the county to capitalize on it by helping local producers access and diversify the markets they sell to, Leitz said.
And he believes instead of scattershot attempts at winning grant funding, the county could contract with a grant writer or consultant to see what money is available and advise which ones to pursue to produce the most economic-development benefit.
He said it is cheaper to contract the service than to create a Planning Department or hire staff with fringe benefits.
Leitz said sharing services might yield savings in offices like Public Health and the Office for Aging, which serve parallel client populations.
An account clerk or other position might be a shared person, which could also mean reimbursement paperwork to be filed with the state faster and bring revenue quicker.
The county discussed possibly filling a staff vacancy in Public Health to keep up with data entry on an aging computer system rather than spending the estimated $300,000 on new computer technology that might be out of date within a few years.
Also discussed was revamping on-demand service for rides on the Public Transportation buses, although details are still being worked out in the budget, Leitz said.
By law, the county must provide transportation to those at least 1 mile off its designated route who want it, he said.
But some people are getting on-demand rides that cost the county a total of $50,000 a year in fuel, drivers and vehicle wear and tear.
The county will also look at changing its lesser-used routes, putting the responsibility on the riders to arrange the necessary connections to get them where they need to go.
“There will be fewer routes, which means fewer drivers, and the cost will come down by six figures,” the county manager said.
The county is purchasing three new buses this year and two more next year to replace its diesel-powered vehicles with gasoline-powered ones, but the change will result in less gas mileage between fillups.
Public Transportation Director Mary Shantie said the tradeoff is that the mechanic the agency uses from the County Highway Department can do any repairs and maintenance in-house easier and faster with gasoline-fuel vehicles instead of diesel-fueled ones, which can involve more complicated repairs that are contracted out.
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