County leaders reinstate pay raises, dip into bed tax to balance budget

QUEENSBURY In a final push Monday to lower expenses for Warren Countys 2009 budget, county supervisors cut $142,000 from the amount theyll need from property owners in 2009 to pay for government operations. The move reduces a planned 3.5 percent tax hike in amount to be raised by taxes to a 2.9 percent increase over last year. The supervisors decided to use $142,000 of bed tax funds with revenues now surpassing expectations to pay for the fringe benefits of seven employees in the county Tourism Department. On the other hand, the county leaders decided to reinstate a 3 percent pay raise which theyd recently proposed to cut for the county employees who earn the most. County Budget Officer Kevin Geraghty said the use of bed tax revenue to fund benefits was a legitimate action. This move will work to reduce the burden on county taxpayers. Geraghty said the move represents merely a shift of resources but it will result in a gain for taxpayers. To save the taxpayers $142,000 at this time is the right thing to do, Geraghty continued. The benefits in question include health insurance, social security and Medicare costs that have traditionally been paid through the Tourism Departments budget. Some supervisors said Monday they thought the countys Occupancy Tax Committee should have helped make the decision to switch funding sources. This represents a flawed procedural error that should never happen again,Glens Falls Supervisor-at-Large Michael O'Connor (D) said. Regardless of dissent, the measure passed in a 4-3 vote, with OConnor, Lake George Supervisor Lou Tessier and Glens Falls Supervisor-at-Large William Kenny voting against it. I think this gets us closer to where we need to be, said Queensbury Supervisor Dan Stec, who has fought tax increases on behalf of Queensbury residents. This gets us one step closer to my arbitrary baseline of under a four percent increase for Queensburys contribution. The tiered pay-raise system that sparked controversy among county department chiefs during the last several weeks was taken out of the budget after many supervisors said that the benefits did not outweigh the drawbacks. Two weeks ago, a measure was passed by the budget committee that would have slashed the pending pay raises of non-union county employees making more than $40,000 annually. Instead, guaranteed 3 percent across-the-board pay raises were reinstated Monday for county employees. The prior tiered system would have saved an estimated $46,000. This newly trimmed budget is scheduled to go before the to the entire county board of supervisors and the public at 10 a.m. Friday Nov. 21.

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