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      Onondaga County DOT facing budget shortfall

      Onondaga County's Commissioner of Transportation says his department could be facing a budget shortfall by the end of the year, and he wants to take action now to make sure the county can keep the roads clear the rest of the year.

      Brian Donnelly says by the end of 2011, the department will face a projected shortfall for salt of $394,723, and it will face a projected shortfall for fuel of $361,283.

      "It's been a very hard winter, a lot of use, a lot of trips for the plows, a lot of salt usage," says Donnelly. He says the department also faced some cuts this year in the county budget, and if the winter had been more mild, the department may have been able to sustain those cuts.

      Another problem is the price of gas. Donnelly say the use of fuel is up 28% since last year, and the prices just keep rising. The county budgeted for diesel prices of $2.87-$2.88 per gallon. It's paying around $3.07 now.

      Donnelly went before the Onondaga County Facilities Committee today with ideas of where his department can come up with that extra money.

      He proposed taking $266,681 from an account that was developed to encourage towns and villages to do more of their own plowing. He says there is a surplus in that account. He also wants to take $489,325 from the Department of Transportation's fund balance. He says that fund balance currently has a surplus of more than $1 million.

      The committee approved Donnelly's plans.

      "I think most of the department heads know they've got to find money in their budget should they go over," says Legislator Kathleen Rapp (R-District 5). "But what are you going to do? You have to plow the snow. You have to fill up the trucks with gas."

      Rapp says now the measure will go to the full legislature for approval in April.