Proposed county budget down 1 percent

ELIZABETHTOWN Property owners in Essex County might catch a small break next year from county taxes. At the full county board meeting on Nov. 5, County Manager Clifford Donaldson offered a snapshot of the countys 2008 preliminary budge, which calls for a reduction in the tax levy. Donaldson announced the total budget is $84,717,625, down about 1 percent from last years $84,233,629. Donaldson said the tax levy should decrease by $133,795. The Essex County board of supervisors will hold a public hearing on the budget on Monday, Nov. 26, at 7 p.m. The board has moved the regular Ways and Means Committee meeting from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. that day. Theyve worked extremely hard on this, to keep the levy down a lot of hard work and effort went into this, said Moriah supervisor and county board budget liaison Thomas Scozzafava. Part of the reason is the county is anticipating a greater revenue in sales tax, and is appropriating $6,772,898 in fund balance to keep the levy down. Newcomb Supervisor George Canon wondered if using the fund balance would effect the countys bond rating, but Donaldson replied that the use was conservative. It's in line with keeping the same amount of fund balance as weve always have. When the bonding houses come, they will find weve kept the financial house of Essex County pretty much stable over the years, said Donaldson. Scozzafava attributed the decrease in property tax levy to the sales tax. Essex County receives a 3.75 percent rate. It's the fairest form of taxation. That is why weve been able to go four years without an increase in the property tax levy, said Scozzafava. The budget includes $125,000 for the Essex County Fish Hatchery Water Project and $30,000 in upgrades to the fairgrounds. If we are going to continue to own both the fish hatchery and fairgrounds, we must begin a long-term plan of upgrading, said Donaldson. County officials nixed $250,000 in new personnel requests and increased tipping fees in the landfill by $5 per ton, which will go to the landfill reserve. Essex Supervisor Ronald Jackson asked Donaldson what the rising prices of diesel fuel and crude oil will do for transportation costs in the budget. Donaldson replied those costs had been taken into consideration. We did try and factor in an increase to reflect what the market is doing its very volatile, we dont know where its going to be in as far as fuel, said Donaldson. The budget also includes a $5,000 raise for Sheriff Henry Hommes. Donaldson cited increased responsibilities that came with the opening of the new Essex County Jail as the reason.

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