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Essex County budget in peril

The Essex County Board of Supervisors

The Essex County Board of Supervisors Photo by Keith Lobdell.

— Essex County officials traded ideas on how to balance the county budget at a meeting on Nov. 19.

Town Supervisor Randy Douglas suggested a $1,000 salary reduction for all town board members, civil service employee association and confidential employees.

“I know this won’t make a lot of people happy, but I’ll share the pain, ” Douglas said. “I don’t want to see anyone lose their job.”

With 700 employees, Douglas said the salary reduction would save the county $700,000.

He also said he is opposed to giving out raises to county employees, including town supervisors and department heads, which would save the county an additional $200,000.

Some town supervisors said they would agree to the pay decrease Douglas suggested, while others, including Essex County finance chairman Tom Scozzafava, said CSEA union employees will never be on board with the idea.

The meeting came after the so-called Palmer Plan was unveiled Nov. 7.

The plan, proposed by Essex County Manager Daniel Palmer, is a three year plan to balance the county budget.

Under the proposed plan the 2013 tax levy would be $20,576,274, a 26-percent increase from 2012’s tax levy of $16,276,443.

The tax rate would increase from $2.42 per $1,000 property value to $3.10 a difference of 68 cents, or $68 on a house assessed at $100,000.

Other options were discussed, too.

A suggestion to sell the Essex County Fairground in Westport.

“If we put it out to bid, that’s a one-time revenue and the end of a 166 year-old-fair, one of the oldest in the United States,” said Westport Town Supervisor Daniel Connell. “I think that’s a big mistake.”

Several county board members also suggested selling the Essex County Fish Hatchery in Crown Point.

Layoffs of non-mandated positions, doing away with non-used bus routes, a hiring freeze and implementing furloughs in lieu of laying people off were among the other ideas suggested.

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