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Essex County Manager has three year plan for budget

Moriah Supervisor and budget liaison Tom Scozzafava and Essex County Manager Daniel Palmer, who announced that he along with his wife, Deborah, would be retiring from county service Jan. 1.

Moriah Supervisor and budget liaison Tom Scozzafava and Essex County Manager Daniel Palmer, who announced that he along with his wife, Deborah, would be retiring from county service Jan. 1. Photo by Keith Lobdell.

— In the three year plan, Palmer said the county would use $4,350,000 in fund balance for 2013, dropping to $1 million in 2014 and none in 2015, leaving the county with an anticipated fund balance of $5 million.

Palmer said that a cushion is needed in the fund balance account to pay for municipal tax warrants.

“Last year, we paid, schools, towns and districts $4.3 million to cover unpaid tax bills,” Palmer said. “If you have less then $5 million in fund balance to cover that, then you are going to be in a position where you have to borrow from the bank. We were there before and we don’t want to go back.”

Palmer said the county basically had to make up for years of having zero and minimal increases to the tax levy, which may be a hard sell.

“The overuse of the fund balance has ultimately been to the advantage of the taxpayers,” he said. “But, they don’t care what you did for them yesterday, they care what you will do for them tomorrow. However, we have to correct the things that have happened for almost 10 years now. We paid for costs with our ‘savings account’ and now we do not have the revenue coming in to keep going that way.”

Palmer said that his plan was based on several assumptions, the biggest being the pending sale of the Horace Nye Nursing Home.

“If the home is not sold, the plan doesn’t work,” he said, adding that retirement rates, state funding streams and the board requesting the use of more fund balance could all lead to the plan being upset.

“If the board uses more fund balance in any one of these three years, then the plan does not work,” he said. “My intent is to be at three percent in 2015 and have a balanced budget. This plan is controlled by this board. Ultimately, this is based on the people I am talking to here.”

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