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Sun., Nov. 23
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St. Lawrence County agencies warned of possible funding loss

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CANTON - The St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators is giving outside agencies fair warning that they may lose funding next year because of the expected loss of tribal compact money.

The county has not received nearly $3 million of the compact funds it had budgeted in the past because of a dispute between the state and St. Regis Mohawk Tribe over gaming exclusivity rights. Officials fear future funding is also in jeopardy as the state wants to develop its own casinos.

The county has used some of the compact money in the past to have outside agencies, such as Cornell Cooperative Extension and the county Chamber of Commerce, provide services on its behalf.

At their board meeting this week, legislators agreed to send affected agencies a letter informing them not to expect the same level of funding as in the past so they can drum up money elsewhere.

The county also wants agencies to tell them within 60 days what the financial impact to the county would be if they received less money.

Some legislators thought the warning premature but the board voted 11-4 to deliver the notification.

“The whole point of this is to start the discussion,” said Legislator Mark H. Akins, R-Lisbon.

Legislators were not sure how any loss in funding would affect the contract with the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency, which handles economic development for the county.

Legislators decided in 2010 to a three-year $1,257,000 deal dissolving the Office of Economic Development and providing the IDA with $375,000 in 2011, $425,000 in 2012 and $475,000 in 2013.

A clause in the contract allows the county to back away from the deal for lack of funding but the interpretation of how that might play out was not clear if the county reneged and was challenged by the IDA.

“We’re not bankrupt today,” said Legislator Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction.

Mr. Akins said the IDA should not be excluded from the discussion from the get-go but should make a strong case for itself that the county continue its funding.

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