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Essex County rejects extra NCCC funding

ELIZABETHTOWN - Essex County officials cited fiscal hardship and bad timing as they defeated a plan to support funding for North Country Community College's capital improvement project.

In a split vote at their Oct. 4 meeting, members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors rejected a resolution to take out a $16 million bond toward expanding and renovating facilities at NCCC's Saranac Lake Campus.

"I support the college, but I do not support the timing of this project today," said North Elba supervisor Roby Politi, one of eight supervisors to vote against the measure.

The resolution represented Essex County's commitment to the $65 million project, to which Franklin County would have also contributed $16 million with New York State's University Construction Fund supplying the rest.

However, several supervisors argued Essex County couldn't afford to take on the cost of the bond when they anticipate a near-40-percent rise in taxes for the coming year.

"We were working on the budget last week, and I can tell you it's not pretty," said Moriah supervisor Tom Scozzafava, who chairs the Finance Committee. "We trimmed as much as we could possibly trim during the workshop, but I can tell you right now it's not going to be enough."

Board chairman Randy Douglas, supervisor of Jay, advocated for the borrow, claiming expansion of NCCC could improve enrollment there, particularly among county residents, thereby offsetting the cost Essex County bears in enrollment chargebacks to community colleges in other counties.

"I understand my colleagues' reservations on this," said Douglas. "The timing couldn't be worse."

According to county manager Dan Palmer, Essex County would have a minimum $60,000 payment to make on the bond in the first year and $460,000 each year afterward until it was repaid.

At one point, Douglas withdrew the resolution, urging board members to hold a special meeting to address the issue next week when more accurate budget impact estimates would be available. The vote to schedule a meeting the following week failed, however.

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