By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
FONDA -- Citing economic hardship and a more reasonable use of county money, the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors' Economic Development and Planning Committee voted Tuesday to decline funding from the state's I Love NY tourism program.
Instead, the county is moving to create a tourism promotion account from some of its "bed tax" rather than using the general fund.
Under the state program, counties are required to match funds that can only be spent within the confines of state-approved measures.
Montgomery County was "awarded" $56,818 from the state, so it would have to pony up that much, and committee Chairman Greg Rajkowski, Mohawk town supervisor, said it's a gamble for the county to appropriate funding that may not even directly benefit its constituents.
"We're hearing the I Love NY program may not even be in existence in the near future because they're having problems funding it. We might as well take the money, if we have to put it up anyway, and totally control it," Rajkowski said.
County Economic Development Specialist Crystal Ricciuti said it's a "more responsible use of taxpayer money" to direct funding towards the maintenance of the Canalway Trail, which would have been prohibited under guidelines from the state program.
"Since the beginning of the year, we have leaned more towards supporting important local tourism and community events with the Local Tourism Grant Program, and this decision to offset the trail costs simply follows this same trend," Ricciuti said, noting the trail is "one of [the county's] largest and most utilized tourism attractions."
In 2010, the state promised funding for the tourism program but never released the funds, citing budget constraints. Montgomery County eliminated the funding from its 2011 budget but reinstated it by pulling funds from its contingency account with news the funds were awarded.
The county decided to designate its Economic Development and Planning Department as its Tourism Promotion Agency this year, but Rajkowski said the state's program is an "administrative nightmare" that the county's employees don't have enough time for.