Schuyler legislature approves 2013 budget
SCHUYLER COUNTY––The Schuyler County legislature voted to approve the 2013 budget by a vote of six for and two against during their regular meeting held Monday, Dec. 10. The 2013 budget manages to maintain the 2012 tax rate while the tax levy will increase by approximately 5.6 percent. The budget includes charge backs to the towns within Schuyler County for community college costs of around $400,000. Chairman Dennis Fagan explained the legislature plans to eliminate the charge backs in future budgets in favor of a reduction in the percentage of sales tax that is returned to the towns. The budget will go into effect Jan. 1, 2013.
Several legislators who spoke about the budget acknowledged they were effectively hamstrung by increasing New York State mandates. Fagan said that over the last 10 years the state costs have increased 50 percent while the county’s costs have gone down 1 percent. He thanked the county’s department heads and staff, adding, “we continually ask them to do more with less resources.” In response to a suggestion from the public that passing community college charge backs was akin to taking money from one pocket to put into another, Fagan explained the legislatures decision to burden the towns with the charge backs, saying, the county budget is, “very lean...by putting the burden on the towns it was our feeling that they had the ability to cut costs better than we did.” He then acknowledged that the charge backs may not have been the fairest approach, which is why future budgets will instead adjust sales tax returns. Legislator Phil Barnes said that because of the charge backs, the towns are now “doing the same thing that we have been doing for several years now.” He added that the towns, especially Dix, did a “wonderful job cutting spending.”
Legislators Barbara Halpin and Doris Karius voted against the 2013 budget. Karius said that she had received many calls from concerned constituents and that she was, “not going to vote for the budget because I feel sorry for the people who can’t afford the budget.” Halpin explained that in her opinion, the only way to get relief from the state would be to continue to cut away programs until the budget reached a point that, even with only state mandated spending, the county still could not stay under the tax cap. Then, said Halpin, “we can say to the State of New York we have done everything that we can do.” Halpin said there were areas of the budget that could still be cut, but not significantly, “as someone who spent a lot of time on the budget this year I know there is not a lot beyond mandated programs.”
Legislator Glenn Larison said that mandated funding made up 87 percent of the 2013 county budget. “If [New York State] can’t work on the 87 percent, how are we supposed to run the county on the 12 percent?” asked Larison. “This was an extremely difficult year,” said Fagan, “the $1.2 million increase in child protective services created a hole that is literally too big to dig out of.” He also thanked the management staff for their help and their work ethic and thanked those who chose to forgo their pay increases for the second time in three years.
The legislature’s year end meeting is scheduled for Dec. 27 at 9:15 a.m. in the legislature chambers.