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Clinton County budget hearing quiet

Spending plan below the new property-tax cap

PLATTSBURGH — The Clinton County budget hearing drew little interest.

One incoming lawmaker argued against raises, while another individual supported pay increases for county managers.

Besides that, there was little said about the proposed budget that came in under New York state’s new tax-cap structure.

The property-tax cap is based on a 2-percent increase. Exceptions factored in include tax-base growth, payments in lieu of taxes and the state employee retirement fund.

The $157.9 million budget was more than $1 million less than the 2011 budget.

“It will not require an override,” said Dr. Robert Heins (R-Area 10, City of Plattsburgh), who chairs Clinton County’s finance committee.

Under the 2012 plan, the tax levy would increase 2.9 percent, for a total of $28,096,043, which is 1.5-percent below the allowable limit under the property-tax cap. The tax rate would rise 2 percent from $5.96 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $6.08.

Clinton County utilized roughly $2 million in fund balance to offset tax increases and increased sales-tax revenue projections by nearly $600,000.

Revenues dropped around $2.2 million, resulting in 23 positions being unfilled, with 22 remaining open through attrition. The county cut one position in the Health Department after the state funding for the job dried up.

Medicaid costs are expected to rise by nearly $430,000 to more than $17.4 million.

The spending plan includes 2.5-percent raises for all county managers, the same union members will receive.

Incoming legislator Mark Dame took issue with that.

“We have gone through a brutal recession, and many people in the private sector have lost their jobs and houses,” said Dame, who won the November election and will take over as Area 8 legislator on Jan. 1, 2012.

He asked lawmakers to reconsider raises for county managers.

Joseph Mousseau disagreed with Dame and urged legislators not to reconsider management raises.

“Yes times are hard and times are dire,” he said. “I know we are suffering, but I don’t think it is time to leave one segment out.”

The Clinton County Sheriff’s Department budget is up about $408,000, or 4.4 percent, which Dame took issue with too.

“The pattern is disturbing, and it is not clear in the budget.”

Dame said overall it seemed a “pretty smooth” budget process.”

Legislators will vote on the budget at the Dec. 14 meeting.

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