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Stec: Warren County boosted finances during 2011 despite financial stresses

Progress on environment, infrastructure cited

As he delivers the annual State of the County address Thursday Jan. 5, Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Stec praises county workers for their work in boosting efficiency — and diligence in responding to 2011's devastating storms. Listening to Stec's speech are (center): Warren County Administrator Paul Dusek and (right): county Attorney Martin Auffredou.

As he delivers the annual State of the County address Thursday Jan. 5, Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Stec praises county workers for their work in boosting efficiency — and diligence in responding to 2011's devastating storms. Listening to Stec's speech are (center): Warren County Administrator Paul Dusek and (right): county Attorney Martin Auffredou. Photo by Thom Randall.

— Warren County made substantial progress in balancing its budget and developing its tourism infrastructure despite ever-greater financial pressures, the county’s political chief said Thursday Jan. 5.

County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Stec praised the board members for their actions in limiting the 2012 tax increase to 1.7 percent while doubling the county’s financial reserves to $7.1 million. His comments were made during the annual State of the County message delivered at the yearly organizational meeting.

“2010 brought improvements over 2009 in the county’s overall financial health, and 2011 saw this improving trend continue substantially,” he said.

This frugal budgeting both in 2010 and 2011 — with the smallest tax increases in the last 20 years — was accomplished in two of the worst years for sales and mortgage tax revenue and slashed state aid, he said.

This trend of budget containment was likely not sustainable, Stec said, considering that the state continues to mandate more costly programs while they are imposing a 2 percent property tax cap.

“Meaningful mandate relief is a must,” he said.

Stec also cited a long list of tourism-related accomplishments, which included signing railway lease contracts with Iowa Pacific Holdings, which launched the Saratoga-North Creek Railway. This new passenger rail service has enjoyed substantial success so far and is already sparking a revival in North Creek’s economy, he said. The railway is also moving forward on its aim of providing freight service that is expected to spur industry and create jobs, Stec added.

“The prospect of freight service and economic development opportunity both south and north of our county boundaries hold great potential for not only Warren County but also northern Saratoga and Essex counties,” he said.

Stec also praised county leaders for successfully negotiating with the state to substantially reduce its leasing fees for Americade motorcycle rally’s week-long use of Million Dollar Beach parking lot. The stiff charges they sought had threatened to chase Americade out of state, causing the loss of $42 million or more in revenue to area businesses, he said.

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