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Legislature approves budget with 4 percent tax levy increase

SCHUYLER COUNTY—The Schuyler County Legislature approved a 2010 budget with a 4 percent tax levy increase and an 8 percent spending increase, Tuesday morning, Nov. 24 at a special meeting of the legislature to adopt the 2010 budget.
County Administrator Tim O’Hearn attributed these increases to:
• A 54 percent increase in pension costs.
• A 17 percent increase in health care benefits.
• A 1.4 percent increase in wage costs.
He said they don’t want to take any more money from taxpayers than necessary, but they also don’t want to have to tell someone they do not have enough money to fund their program either. The board of elections more than doubled with a 111 percent increase, but it is running 10 percent more than last year with the help of the 3 percent sales tax increase.  
He said the health care benefits are shared with the towns to try to help lower each individual town tax.
The wage costs started at $600,000, management will have to take a pay freeze and work force reduction will need to take place in order to keep this increase. He said as of now 12.5 full-time equivalent positions will be eliminated. According to O’Hearn these reductions are not related to performance, but rather an economic decision.  
During a meeting of the Schuyler County Legislature Monday, Nov. 9, a number of people spoke in support of reenacting the 4 percent sales tax on clothing, and saving these 12.5 full-time positions. They claimed that the reductions would leave some of the most vulnerable people in the community without aid, a continued pile up of caseloads, and a decrease in services that should be available to people in the county.
Tuesday, Nov. 24, Jill Wicker asked legislators whether they had read a letter that Tammy Brown sent about how the position cuts would affect caseworkers and services provided to area resident. Chairman Thomas M. Gifford confirmed that all of the legislators had read this letter and are aware of how it will affect services.
Legislator Dennis A, Fagan is in favor of reenacting this 4 percent sales tax on clothing and has supported this decision throughout the budget. He said it is preferable to increase revenues by $150,000 rather than lay off jobs.
Legislator Michael Yuhasz is also in favor of reenacting the sales tax. He said, “It is morally irresponsible to lay off staff which will affect lives and families rather than to support the sales tax.”
Legislator Glenn R. Larison said a tax is a tax and we can’t raise any. Raising a tax on clothing will affect everyone, including young families.
The $45 million budget also includes an increase of 10.7 percent in revenues, bringing to an estimated $34 million in total revenues. This will leave the county with a $750,000 surplus.
The proposed tax rate will be $8.08 per $1,000 of assessed value, down 3.5 percent from the 2009 budget.
O’Hearn also said that significant reductions in the highway budget will have to change in 2011, because there will be even more uncertainty at the state level. The state budget will have to address a $12 plus billion deficit, forcing a reduction in state spending to occur, and more position cuts as well.
A majority of the legislature approved the overall budget. Fagan and Michael Yuhasz voted against it.
Schuyler County Administrative Unit President Tammy Brown said, “I am very disappointed that the legislature does not deem my offer to renegotiate a new three to four year contract as being a good faith attempt at making some type of concession to assist with the issue at hand.” 

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