With cuts, county avoids tax rate increase
SCHUYLER COUNTY—The Schuyler County Legislature met on Wednesday, Nov. 7 for a budget workshop followed by a special meeting in an effort to make progress on the county’s tentative 2013 budget. The legislature voted to reduce or eliminate funding to several non-mandated programs. These measures, along with adjustments made at previous workshops, have resulted in a budget that meets the legislatures goal of not exceeding the 2012 tax rate. If the budget passes in its current iteration the tax levy will rise but due to increases in assessments the tax rate will not.
Several programs will see their budgets reduced if the tentative budget is adopted. The legislature voted to eliminate funding for the Court Appointed Special Advocate program and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, which will save the county $7,000 and $12,000 respectively. The legislature also approved reducing funding for the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council by $5,000. These cuts are in addition to reductions already made to the budgets of other agencies and departments, including the Department of Social Services, the Office for the Aging, Cornell Cooperative Extension and Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development.
Legislators Doris Karius and Barbara Halpin requested that the budget for RSVP be maintained because they viewed it as a worthwhile program. Halpin explained that she views programs as “investments,” then asking, “are you getting a return on your investment.” She said that RSVP was worth funding because, “volunteerism is a huge bang for the buck.” Halpin also lobbied for further cuts to departments within the county, saying, “the reality is that the things that are driving are costs... are not going away, we have got to cut our spending more.” She then motioned to reduce the sheriff’s budget by $25,000, DSS’s budget by $25,000, OFA’s budget by $12,000 and public health’s budget by $12,000. The motions did not pass.
County administrator Tim O’Hearn explained that he had been working with the department heads to reduce their budgets and the figures represented in the tentative budget were as low as they could go while still operating effectively. “There is no fat in these budgets,” said O’Hearn. Legislator Tom Gifford added that if the budgets were cut any further the departments would end up going over budget anyway. Chairman Dennis Fagan suggested that the legislators agree to give up their county provided insurance as it is not mandated and the savings could be used to fund RSVP. Fagan’s suggestion was not brought up for a vote.
The legislature also voted to begin the process to reduce the amount of sales tax revenue returned to the county’s municipalities. O’Hearn explained that if all of the towns and villages waive the six month notice requirement the reduction will become effective Jan. 1, 2013. If they do not waive the requirement it may take as long as Jan. 1, 2014 in which case the county would look to charging the towns for community college services for the 2013 budget year.
The next meeting of the legislature is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls.