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Essex County budget draws no reaction from public

Essex County Government Center, Elizabethtown

Essex County Government Center, Elizabethtown Photo by Andy Flynn.

— Only one person signed up to speak at the Nov. 25 special Essex County Board of Supervisors meeting soliciting comment on the 2014 tentative county budget.

However, when it was his turn to speak, Gale Wilkins of Willsboro said County Manager Daniel Palmer’s presentation had answered his questions.

Palmer presented his thoughts on the budget to start the special meeting and received praise from the supervisors for “simplifying” the rationale behind seeking a 15 percent increase in the tax levy for the coming year.

“You have to climb out of the $6.8 million hole,” Palmer said. “We are budgeting appropriately. We are budgeting what we need and we are spending what we have to and it does not leave us with anything left over. The problem with the fund balance is it is not renewing itself. We are in a tough spot but in a few years, if we plan right we can get back on track.”

Palmer said the county has cut back on spending and staff over the past several years, including for the 2014 fiscal plan.

“Wherever we can we have cut back on spending,” he said. “Our budget represents a drop of $1.3 million from last year to this year. If you look at your 2004 tax bill, the amount that you are paying in taxes now is not much different than it was in 2004 and in many cases it is less.”

Palmer also said that based on state numbers, Essex County was the third-lowest taxing county in the North Country after Hamilton and Warren when you average in county, town, village and school property tax rates.

“This is my 24th budget out here and this is the best budget presentation I have seen,” Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava, who also serves as the budget liaison to the board, said. “He broke this down to where people can understand it and see where the county is, which is not bleak but it could be.”

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