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County Legislature Reviews Arts, Human Services Budgets

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Erie County legislators Monday continue budget hearings on portions of the County Executive's proposed 2004 budget. Next through the gauntlet are the spending recommendations for the county's cultural and public benefits organizations.

There may be little debate in budget hearings over cultural funding. The Legislature's process for determining cultural funding has been left, in large part for the last several years, to a volunteer advisory board. The Erie County Cultural Resource Advisory Board, or ECRAB, spent five months reviewing requests by 56 arts groups. In all, they recommended -- and the County Executive agreed -- that the county spend $5.6 million supplementing the organizations at varying levels. That's the same amount as last year. But Legislator Lynn Marinelli says county "emergency funding" has become an additional source of funding for some organizations.

"While there's this process of going through the traditional operation and maintenance costs, there are opportunities throughout the year to take a look at situational needs or project needs," Marinelli said.

But Marinelli acknowledged that the availability of emergency funding has created a void in what was a solid review process by the advisory board. There is currently no formal review process for determining who qualifies for the extra funds. Marinelli recommended to the County Executive, during his presentation of the budget last week, that a new process may be necessary.

"We should have the cultural board be invoked for some of those kinds of situations," Marinelli said. "Life happens along the way. We may need to look at a better process."

Representatives from various arts groups are expected to make presentations at the hearing. Anyone is welcome to attend and offer comment at the public hearing set for 5:15pm Monday at the Legislature in County Hall on Franklin Street.