"All we're doing is using our fund balance to buy down the levy," he said, noting a similar yet troublesome trend over the past four years.
North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi was among many who expressed concern with using so much of the fund balance.
"I do personally have a problem with continuing to pay down this amount of fund balance every year," he said, noting it's allowed the tax rate to stay unrealistically level. "We're at $2 a thousand, and it's been going down because we've been buying down the levy with our fund balance every year."
Palmer said Essex County has one of the lowest tax rates in the state, and realistically should have a rate of around $3.20 per thousand, which would be more comparable to neighboring counties.
Newcomb Supervisor George Canon brought up the need for a decision regarding the Horace Nye Nursing Home, one of the county's largest non-mandated expenses. Several supervisors have hinted at privatizing the facility.
"In these economic times when a lot of our constituents are feeling the pain, I think that's something we need to take a look at," said Scozzafava.
Palmer recommended reducing the use of fund balance as a first priority. He agreed to give committee members a detailed analysis of areas where additional cuts could potentially be made.
A public hearing on the tentative budget is scheduled for Dec. 1, 7 p.m., at the supervisors' chambers in Elizabethtown. Members of the public who wish to speak or submit written statements will be permitted to do so. Meanwhile, a detailed summary of the tentative budget is available for review at the office of the clerk of the board of supervisors.