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Proposed County Budget Sparks Debate Over Future Of Events in Downtown Cortland

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The Cortland County Legislature’s Budget and Finance Committee released recommendations this week for the tentative 2019 budget.

One of the proposed changes made was to the allocation of the county’s occupancy tax dollars.

This year’s occupancy tax revenue was down substantially, over $67,000 less than from the previous budget.

The County is now proposing cuts in the budget, the biggest of which would be to the Cortland Downtown Partnership Association. The County now proposes to completely cut the funding it usually allocates to the Partnership – a drop of $20,000 from last year’s budget.

Executive Director Adam Megivern said in a press release Wednesday (November 21) that if these recommendations are passed, local events such as this years New Year’s Eve Celebration, the Main Street Music Series, Chill-A-Bration, Pumpkinfest and other local favorites would likely be canceled.

“The occupancy tax has been a critical part of our budget to providing not only the marketing of these events, but also the logistics, the staffing and even the day-to-day marketing of everything that’s going on downtown. These events are already skeleton in terms of our ability to produce them as-is. A complete cut in County funding to the Downtown Partnership and a reduction of spending on the individual events puts us in a position where it is not feasible to move forward.”

Meghan Lawton, Director of the Cortland County Convention and Visitors Bureau, weighed in on the issue, explaining the Committee’s decision and expressing hope these events will still go on.

“Recommendations from the allocation committee were made to fund all of those events individually, so I would hope that none of them are actually cancelled. The occupancy dollars from 2017 (which is what we’re allocating this year are down considerably, so some tough decisions had to be made. The allocation committee decided to fund these events individually, rather than fund an organization to handle them all. This decision was made to ensure that those events would happen.”

The Budget and Finance Committee is expected to be presented with and vote on all recommendations to the tentative budget on Monday (November 26).

The full legislature will then hold a public hearing on Thursday night (November 29). If no additional public hearings are needed afterwards, there could be a final vote on the budget next week.

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