Yates approves $39M budget for next year
YATES COUNTY—Shortly after 8:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 14, Yates County Legislature Chairman Taylor Fitch announced, “We do have a budget for 2012.” A vote on the $39,341,041 budget followed a public hearing in the Yates County auditorium. The total tax levy is $12,784,935. This reflects a tax levy increase of $360,314 or 2.9 percent.
The total budget is actually down from the current year. The 2011 budget was approved at $40,472,138.
Legislators heard comments from 24 of the some 75 people who attended the meeting. Many spoke in support of keeping two jobs in the County Clerk’s office as full time. The proposed budget makes the jobs part time. Those jobs were part of $825,800 in cuts made to the 2012 budget.
Near the conclusion of the meeting, Legislator Douglas Paddock said none of the speakers proposed reducing the budget. Eighteen spoke in favor of keeping the full time jobs in the county clerk’s office. Speakers supporting restoration of the jobs to full time spoke about the level of service available in the office. Local attorney Donald Schneider said the volume of transactions has increased. Schneider emphasized he is not criticizing the county for proposing the cuts or the costs of the services.
Schneider said the recording process in the county clerk’s office must be accurate. Resident Marlene Button said, “This is the face most people see when they use county services. They are the face of the county.” Resident Sandy King said she is all for cutting taxes, but not cutting them at the cost of cutting services. She said the county clerk’s office is probably the biggest service used by the public. King said, “I can’t believe you can’t find the savings.” Several individuals spoke about the income produced by the county clerk’s office including the motor vehicle office. Others relate difficulties they had experienced at clerk’s offices in other counties. The amount projected to be saved by cutting the two county clerk office positions in Yates County to part time is approximately $55,000.
Sheriff’s Department retiree Karl Tober said he feels it is not right to cut positions in the sheriff’s department. Tober asked, “Is an assistant to the sheriff more important than road deputies?”
Some audience members spoke in support of restoring funding to the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center. Funding for the center was eliminated along with funding for several other outside agencies in the proposed budget. A Dundee Youth Center funding request of $2,276 was not included in the budget. During her presentation, County Administrator and Budget Officer Sarah Purdy said, “Community agencies provide a valuable service for county residents. We are now in a situation where we cannot support them in the way we have in the past.”
Resident Peter Jackson said Yates County needs to get wages back in line. He also said he would like to see increases in county employees’ health insurance premiums. Earlier in the day, during the meeting of the county legislature, Potter resident June Pendleton spoke. Pendleton asked legislators if cuts were being made in the right place. She said, “I think cuts merit more thought.”
Prior to the start of the public comment portion of the hearing, Purdy made a budget presentation. She gave information on expenses, revenue, cuts and use of Fund Balance in the budget. Net expenses for areas of the budget were led by public safety at 29 percent, followed by economic assistance at 20 percent and highway at 15 percent.
Purdy presented an outline of costs related to state mandates. Purdy displayed a chart outlining pensions. The two largest, Medicaid and pensions, will total $12,784,935 in 2012. This is nearly 52 percent of the total tax levy. The two areas have increased by 31 percent over the current budget. Other absolute state mandates bring the total to 69.09 percent of the tax levy. Mandates with minimal flexibility, such as Probation, carry 33.09 percent of the tax levy. Purdy said the mandates eat up 101 percent of the total tax levy. Purdy said, “All property taxes go to state mandates.”
Tax rate increases in most Yates County towns were under five cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Barrington and Starkey have a 22 cent decrease while Italy has a 58 cent increase. Italy’s equalization rate is 89 percent, which affects the tax rate in that town.