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Budget talks heat up for Essex County

The Essex County Board of Supervisors.

The Essex County Board of Supervisors. Photo by Keith Lobdell.

— October and county finance meetings lead to one main topic no matter where you are in New York state — budget talk.

So was life for members of the Essex County Finance, Tax Reduction and Mandate Relief Committee Oct. 15 as they met to discuss the early budget numbers.

County Manager Daniel Palmer reported that, based on the state imposed 2 percent tax levy cap, the county would have little room unless an override was passed.

“We are looking at a 2.55 percent tax cap, which means that we can only increase our levy by $383,636 if we want to stay under the cap.”

Palmer said that given the increases in retirement contributions and other state mandated payments, that was a number that would be unrealistic to get to.

Jay Supervisor and County Chairman Randy Douglas agreed.

“The state mandates are crippling county government,” Douglas said. “Some people think we are just shifting the blame to the state. The governor has been very good to our region but one thing that they are well aware of is that I do not agree with the tax cap.

The increase in the nine for nine mandates is $244 million statewide for counties to pick up. That is a $130 million gap for county funding right there before we even look at our own budget.”

“Although we provide more services than any of the other taxing entities, we get beat up because people look at he size and they think that we have this dynasty out here and that is just not the case,” Moriah Supervisor and budget liaison Tom Scozzafava said.

Palmer added that along with paying for its own expenditures, the county also pays the up-front costs for any municipal taxes that go unpaid.

“If a town or a school does not get their tax money, they still need the money to operate, and we operate as the bank for them,” Palmer said. “We have to take that out of fund balance. We hope to eventually get that back, but it’s not immediate.”

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