Schenectady County

Level tax-rate budget OK’d by Schenectady County Legislature

The Schenectady County Legislature Wednesday night approved a $295.3 million budget for 2012 that ca

The Schenectady County Legislature Wednesday night approved a $295.3 million budget for 2012 that carries no increase in the property tax levy and restores funding of home-delivered meals to senior citizens and the position of director of weights and measures while also funding a suicide prevention program that had lost state funding.

The vote was 13-2 with Republicans voting against the budget, which takes effect Jan. 1.

“This year’s zero percent increase is in addition to four tax cuts in the past six years,” said Judy Dagostino, Legislature chairwoman. “Even with an increase in unfunded mandates passed down to counties by New York state, we worked extremely hard to reduce the burden on taxpayers while protecting vital services.”

Majority Democrats on the 15-member Legislature also reaffirmed their commitment to build a 200-bed skilled nursing facility to replace the aging Glendale Home on Hetcheltown Road in Glenville. They did so by defeating a Republican-sponsored amendment to place a moratorium on the proposed $50.5 million construction project, slated to begin next year.

During debate on the budget and the nursing home project, county Legislator Dr. Brian Gordon, D-Niskayuna, made a comment about the father of county Legislator Robert Farley, R-Glenville, which Farley took as an insult.

Gordon said Schenectady County would be a better place if state Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, spent more time in Albany legislating rather than serving as an extra in movies. Farley had a speaking role in a scene in the movie “The Place Beyond the Pines,” which was filmed this summer in Schenectady.

Testy exchange

At the end of the meeting, a clearly upset Farley, who is minority leader of the Legislature, ran into Gordon as they were leaving and told him to, “Get out of my face. I don’t even want to see you.” Kurt Semon, a Republican running for a seat in District 3, comprising Glenville and Niskayuna, called Gordon an “ass.” Gordon responded by saying he enjoyed defeating Semon when he ran for the county Legislature in District 3 in 2009.

During the meeting, Democrats proposed an amendment to modify the budget and increase sales tax projections for 2012 by $1.3 million, based on strong collections for the first three quarters of this year.

The amendment eliminated a 1.5 percent increase in the property tax levy that had been contained in the proposed budget. County Legislator Gary Hughes, D-Schenectady, majority leader, said the Legislature was not taking a risk by increasing sales tax revenue projections to $88.8 million. He added the county has a $40 million fund balance on which to draw should projections prove wrong.

Farley said the county was making a mistake by overestimating revenues. “You may create a huge hole in your budget. I would rather see cuts in expenditures,” he said.

Meals program

Restoration of $60,000 to the Meals on Wheels program will allow the operator to provide hot meals to senior citizens on weekends. County Manager Kathleen Rooney had eliminated the funding in her proposed budget as a cost-saving measure.

Democrats also restored $62,000 for the position of director of weights and measures, saying the position is self-funding. Rooney had eliminating funding for the position in her proposed budget after it became vacant. C. Todd Godlewski held the position until his arrest in March on a charge of felony grand larceny for allegedly embezzling $2,500 from the county. He is accused of setting up an unauthorized county post office box and bank account and diverting fines through them for his personal use, said District Attorney Robert Carney.

Another amendment by Democrats will provide one year’s worth of funding to the Hamilton Hill Family Resource Center, a suicide prevention program. The program was unable to replace state funding, which ends in December.

In defeating the moratorium, Democrats reaffirmed their commitment to operating a nursing home for frail, elderly and hard-to-place residents who may have little or no insurance, Hughes said. “You need a place that says we don’t care how much it costs and that will keep your bed open should you require long-term hospitalization,” he said.

Farley said the moratorium would not have prevented construction of a nursing home, only that it would have required the county to proceed after determining the true cost to build a new nursing home. “Not one of you can give a cost of what the nursing home will be,” he said.

Democrats also defeated Republican amendment to name land near the nursing home as parkland. Residents of the area have approached the Legislature for the past 18 months seeking to protect the land, used for sledding and nature walks, from development. Democrats said they will consider protecting the land at a later date.

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