At the Rockland County Legislature’s Budget & Finance Committee meeting Tuesday night, the most talked about issue wasn’t on the agenda.
Before the meeting ended, Ilan Schoenberger, chair of the committee, told the rest of its members he wanted to go over their allotted money to give to veterans organizations in 2012 as part of their “patriotic observance.”
Since they started doing it in 2006, the committee gave $2,000 to veterans organizations that applied. Last year they cut that down to $1,750 per organization, bringing the total given out as part of the observance to a bit less than $29,000. They cap the total given out at $30,000.
After a discussion, the committee opted to cut it by the same amount as last year, bringing down this year’s total to $1,500 per organization.
Schoenberger said the money goes for things like Memorial Day parades and buying flags to put at graves, as well as other things.
He asked the committee if they agreed on the same amount for this year, or because of all the cuts to other organizations, the committee members felt like they should cut the amount given out as part of the observance as well.
“I know this has worked beautifully, so if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” Legislator John Murphy said.
Legislator Nancy Low-Hogan was in favor of cutting the amount down because of how many other organizations saw cuts in their funds for the year. Legislator Frank Sparaco agreed, saying they should cut it down to $1,000 per organization, and the money should go to just one organization per each legislator’s district. Sparaco, a veteran himself, said he doesn’t see this as something “vital” and the legislature cut funding for organizations that “feed hungry kids” so this shouldn’t take precedence over organizations like that.
He said if they wanted to use the $30,000 to do something like put it toward a ramp to help disabled veterans get in and out of buildings or in a college fund for the child of a dead veteran, he’d be for that. Schoenberger said giving the money out to organizations spreads it around, whereas doing something Sparaco suggested would help only a few people each year.
Well into the conversation, Murphy said he felt they were “like the committee with a solution looking for a problem” and said they should keep the funds the same as last year. Legislators Toney Earl, Jay Hood and Christopher Carey agreed with him.
Schoenberger said the item wasn’t on the agenda, so they weren’t going to vote for it officially, but he wanted to make sure the committee could come to an agreement on the amount each organization would get. After a little while, the committee agreed to make the cut, as Murphy said he thinks the organizations will still be happy to receive the observance fund.