Legislature approves $40.5 million budget
YATES COUNTY—Yates County Legislators passed the $40,472,138 budget for 2011 by an 11 to three vote on Monday, Nov. 15. Legislators Leslie Church, Patrick Galvin and Mark Morris voted no. Church said, “Even though we have gotten the tax levy down to 2.4 percent I find it unacceptable and further cuts must be made.”
Thirty-one percent of the budget, or $12,424,621, will be raised through property taxes. The projected tax rate will increase 2.4 percent. Rate increases range from a low of five cents per $1,000 or assessed value in the town of Starkey to nine cents in Italy and Torrey. New rates will be from $5.91 in the town of Milo to $6.20 in the town of Starkey.
It was standing room only during a public hearing lasting nearly two hours that preceded the vote in legislative chambers at the Liberty Street office building. Budget Officer and County Administrator Sarah Purdy presented an outline of the budget at the start of the evening. Purdy focused on the expense of mandates imposed by New York State. The total of absolute mandates is $11,240,052. Subtracting revenue of $3,436,005, the net cost to the county is $7,804,047.
A proposal to cut the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) position was the first item addressed by the public. Tom Mahaney, First Assistant Chief, Middlesex Fire Department said he was representing six county fire departments. He asked legislators to make the EMS Coordinator position full time and to fill Glen Miller’s job. Miller is director of Emergency Management and will retire this month. Mahaney said, “Your coordinators are out there working. I’m very concerned.”
Legislature chairman Taylor Fitch responded to many comments made during the hearing. He noted additional funding has been found for the EMS position. Fitch said, “I assure you we will fill Glen’s position.”
Former legislator Peter Jackson said he wanted to discuss Yates County employee wages, salaries and benefits. Jackson maintained the employees have received accumulative raised above the accumulative Consumer Price Index (CPI) over the last 10 years by nine to 12 percent. Jackson added information on the additional cost of benefits for Social Security, Medicare, health insurance and pensions. Jackson recommended no raises for several categories of employees for three years after contracts end.
Jackson also asked that employees be replaced only after “It is clearly determined by members of the county legislature that services performed by the county cannot be done unless the vacant position is filled.” Jackson’s final requests were that all future increases in health insurance premiums be 100 percent paid by the county employee and that procedures for negotiating with unions be reviewed and possibly changed. Fitch said he agrees that employees should pay more for health insurance and pensions. He emphasized the fact that the county has a process for replacing employees in place now.
The next speaker was Sandy King. She said she commends the highway department for cutting their budget. She wants to challenge other departments to cut because the tax rate is still too much. King said, “We’re to blame for mandates. We sat back for so long and did nothing. Call your representatives. We, as New York state residents need to say enough is enough.” King serves as chairperson of the Yates County Republican Committee and is point person for Tea Party.
Fitch said, “We are robbing Peter to pay Paul. People will want things put back. The state shouldn’t tell us how to run our business down here.”
Other speakers urged addressing department heads regarding costs and concern about the burden of taxes.
Fitch had a suggestion for the audience. He said, “Shop locally. When you buy here you are helping yourselves out. We all need to pull together. We are trying to provide services as best we can. A lot of things we just don’t get control over.” Fitch concluded, “My message is: Thanks for coming. We hear you. We’re working on it.”