County recommends 14.7 percent tax increase
YATES COUNTY—The Yates County Legislature adopted a tentative 2013 budget containing a 14.7 percent tax levy increase Thursday, Dec. 6. Some 50 people were in the audience as the legislature voted to adopt the nearly $41 million budget before the Friday, Dec. 7 deadline. County Administrator and Budget Officer Sarah Purdy said the 2013 tax levy totals $14,660,231, which is up an additional $1,875,296 from 2012.
This comes a week after the legislature voted to have individual department heads make an additional 5 percent cut to their budget for next year to see how it would impact their operations. In total, $306,012 was cut from the budget during the Thursday meeting.
The public safety department took the most cuts, totaling $205,187. The legislature voted to not purchase any new marked vehicles for the sheriff’s department, remove the addition of a chief deputy position, yet also voted to not remove an additional vacant dispatch position in a nine to five vote after considerable debate.
Legislator Donna Alexander spoke for retaining the dispatcher by saying the department would not be able to run efficiently with just two people answering calls. Legislator Daniel Banach also spoke in support of leaving the position untouched, saying it amazes him to think dispatch can run with less people.
“If I’m going to make a mistake on this legislature, I’m going to make it on the public safety side of things,” Banach said.
Legislator Tim Dennis said he is concerned if they keep the position, that it would be a multiple-year commitment, and if the county makes it they need to stick with it.
Resident Tom Bagley spoke later during the meeting, saying the legislature needs to conduct more research and look at hard data before coming to conclusions on issues like the dispatch position to see just how efficiently the department works.
“If that statistical analysis did not take place...then I guess I would ask you to reassess,” Bagley said.
Human services saw the next highest reduction of almost $70,000, after reducing items like vehicle expenses, funding for handicapped children, early intervention and rabies control.
Dennis, along with most of the legislature, stressed how state mandates implemented throughout the year are the driving force behind the levy increase, saying if it were not for the large increases to mandated services like community college and pension he predicts the levy increase would have only been at 3 percent for 2013. He said as the budget currently stands, a home assessed at $50,000 would see a $3.50 increase in property taxes a month and a $100,000 home would see an increase of $7 a month, with the average home in Yates County being valued around $126,000. Dennis said the tax rate is only at 80 cents per 1,000 and is actually lower than that of surrounding counties.
Resident Steve Marchionda said the legislature needs to start taking a long-term approach when conducting budget workshops in the future, and that the tax rate is not the real issue because it is manipulated by high property assessments for lakefront properties. He said it is disingenuous of people to come and complain to the legislature after not showing up to prior meetings throughout the year, but he also said Yates County is the fourth highest in the state as far as actual tax bill amounts paid. Marchionda said somebody needs to come and look at the statistical data who is not tied to the process to look at each department’s budgets. Marchionda said it is a tough job, but having such a large levy increase is staggering.
“When in an austerity budget situation like now, some things are better to do than fire people,” Marchionda said.
The legislature will hold a public hearing on the 2013 tentative budget Monday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Penn Yan middle school auditorium.
In other business:
• The legislature passed a resolution calling for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and members of the state legislature to compensate counties for state mandated district attorney’s salaries during their regular meeting Monday, Dec. 10. The resolution is in response to increases in expenses mandated by the state that receive no financial reimbursement by the state. Legislators have stressed over the entire budget process how much state mandates are driving the 2013 budget and leading to the double-digit levy increase.
“The intent is to try and voice our concerns,” Purdy said. “It’s a little discouraging when the governor is quoted as saying the counties need to take care of themselves.”
• The legislature agreed to three different intermunicipal agreements. One is between Yates County and Penn Yan for an expiring contract allowing the Penn Yan Police department to detain arrestees in a section of the county jail prior to their arraignment. The second agreement is a renewal with Monroe County for forensic laboratory services for the year 2013. The third is an agreement between Yates County, Barrington, Benton, Italy, Jerusalem, Middlesex, Milo, Potter, Starkey and Torrey for dog control services.
• The date of a public hearing for the addition of viable agricultural lands to the Yates County agricultural district was set for Friday, Dec. 28 at 1 p.m.
• The county recognized December as National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month to discourage the public from driving under the influence during the holiday season, when instances are most prevalent.