BELMONT — Allegany County department heads are being asked to hold off on purchases if they can due to lagging state aid.

The Allegany County Board of Legislators unanimously backed a resolution calling on department heads “delay any unnecessary purchases through the state fiscal year ending March 31.”

The state budget year begins April 1, with the stroke of midnight as the deadline for the state Legislature and governor to agree on a budget plan.

“The purpose of this is to slow up and have a better handle on purchases,” said Chairman Curt Crandall, R-Belfast. “This slows that process up, especially at the beginning of the year… We hope to have a better analysis of state and federal funds, and any direction they are giving us, by then.”

County Administrator Carissa Knapp said the resolution is similar to one approved in 2020 as the state began withholding 20% of some aid and program reimbursements.

“This resolution worked well in 2020,” she said.

She acknowledged that many purchases are needed, as department heads have done a good job eliminating excess spending in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People have budgeted a lot of necessities, down to calendars, pens and paper,” Knapp said, adding that purchases that need to be made to keep operating are expected. “Some of these things might be computers — they don’t need to purchase computers now in January, maybe they can see how this pans out over the next few months.. And purchase them in May or June.”

County Treasurer Teri Ross said the county is still getting some aid from the state, but not at the rate originally expected.

“The state has been behind, but we’ve been getting money all along,” she said. “We’ve been getting money, but maybe not the full claim.”

When asked if the state would eventually reimburse the county for the missing funds, she had no guaranteed answer.

“We are certainly hoping for it” to come through in the future, she said.

Under the 2020-21 state budget, the governor was given discretion to withhold up to 20% of certain aid and other payments based on cash shortfalls in Albany.

According to the state budget legislation, the governor can choose to pay out those funds later, or make the cuts permanent. The Legislature would then have a short time to accept the cuts, or offer an alternative.

(Contact City Editor Bob Clark at bclark@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)

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