Elizabethtown There will be a lot of decisions that will have to be made between now and the final vote on a 2013 Essex County budget.
Members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors talked about the preliminary budget process at the end of their Oct. 1 regular meeting, with County Manager Daniel Palmer and Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava saying preliminary conversations had taken place.
“We have talked to almost all of the department heads and have a sense of where they are right now,” Scozzafava said. “There is a pretty big gap. At this point in time, it is too early to give you any predictions other than it is not going to be pretty.”
Scozzafava said that the difference between the preliminary numbers and where the county needed to be to reach a 2 percent tax cap was about $14 million. Palmer said the number was more near $13.
Palmer partially blamed the situation on the boards past practices.
“It is no secret that with all of the best of intentions, the county has tried to hold the tax levy as low as it could, but that has now created a gap that is very difficult to make up,” Palmer said. “We have cut employees. We have cut funding to contract agencies. The reality is that the gap between what we need and what we are raising on the levy is going to be tough every year.”
Scozzafava also pointed to employee contract negotiations, the rising costs of benefits and the fact that the county would have to fund the Horace Nye Nursing Home in 2013 as hurdles in the budget process.
“It's going to be hard to nail down a budget and predict what will then happen in 2013,” Scozzafava said.
Palmer added that the decrease in revenue for the county also affects the other agencies it helps fund.
“You have to continually pair down the contract agencies,” he said. “If you continue to do that, it is going to get to the point where they are no longer going to be able to operate.”
Palmer said that the preliminary budget will be completed later in the month for the full board to start to look at and trim.