Schuyler sets vote to override tax cap
SCHUYLER COUNTY—The Schuyler County Legislature reacted to the preliminary 2013 county budget and the looming $2 million projected shortfall that the legislators will be working on during the coming months. A vote was set for overriding the state “two percent tax cap” during the regular legislative meeting held on Tuesday, Oct. 9.
The preliminary 2013 budget is $44,092,337. This is up from the current budget of $42,544,846. Chairman Dennis Fagan explained that the budget increase is largely the result of rising costs for programs and services that are mandated by New York state. This includes an increase of $959,916 in juvenile detention and foster care for this year. The expense is expected to increase for 2013, before leveling off or decreasing in 2014.
The legislature then introduced a local law to override the tax cap. The 2013 tentative budget will be available on the county’s website according to county Administrator Tim O’Hearn. A public hearing is set for both the tax cap override and the tentative budget on Tuesday, Nov. 13 starting at 6:30 p.m. in room 120 of the Human Services Complex.
Legislator Barbara Halpin voted against both the tax cap local law and a resolution calling for $1,800 towards revitalizing the lawn at the courthouse complex. “This legislature has a spending problem,” said Halpin, “we can not be spending anything between now and the end of the year that we do not absolutely have to spend.” Halpin was joined by legislator Doris Karius in voting against the $1,800 expenditure. The vote against the tax cap, explained Halpin, was because “all [overriding the cap] does is give you the ability to not make the tough decisions.” Legislator Michael Yuhasz pointed out his opinion that none of the members or the legislature actually want to raise taxes.
The legislature will not be using any fund balance to offset the gap. O’Hearn explained the county has done this for nearly a decade. However, he said the balance has gotten too low. Fagan also said that he had met with the local town supervisors to discuss the possibility that the county would be passing community college charge backs to the towns. In the past the county has covered the expense, but it is allowed to pass it to the towns.
Legislator Phil Barnes said the rationale behind the move would be to compel the towns to take a look at their own spending. “As the county we have to lead by examle,” said Barnes, “it is time for the towns to start sharpening their pencils, start looking at things.” Halpin agreed insomuch as she expressed that budget cuts are necessary “we will all have to share in the pain until we get through this... lead by example, by cutting spending.” Fagan approved of shifting the charge backs to the towns, but explained that his reasoning was in an effort to intensify the outcry to the New York State Government in Albany about their failure to follow through on mandate relief. “Putting this on the towns forces them to override their tax caps,” said Fagan, which he said he hopes will create a “unified voice screaming to Albany that we have to have mandate relief.”
Schuyler County residents in attendance expressed their opinions about the 2013 budget. David Reid, former Cayuta town supervisor, exressed displeasure that the county is considering “forcing towns to give [the county] money to help [the county] out of their problems.” He said that billing back the towns for community college services will impact all of the towns, and he was concerned as to whether the bill back would be a “one time bailout,” or “business as usual,” going forward. “There comes a point when taxes start to hinder business,” said Paul Marcellus.
The public hearings for the tax cap override and the tentative 2013 budget will be held in Room 120 of the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls on Tuesday, Nov. 13 starting at 6:30 p.m.
In other business:
• The legislature voted to postpone the vote on a local law that would require septic and water inspections for property transfers that are not exempted. The proposed law generated much discussion from interested residents in attendance, most of whom are involved in the real estate industry. Legislator Barnes suggested that the vote be tabled so that the county’s water conservation department can discuss the proposed law with interested parties in the hopes that any concerns can be worked out for the final version.
The next meeting of the legislature is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the Human Services Complex.