The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday trimmed a proposed 16 percent increase in the property tax levy to 6.4 percent, sparing the sheriff’s road patrol and the Office for the Aging from immediate elimination.
To trim the tax levy, the board projected $300,000 more in sales tax revenue and tapped $1.5 million from the county’s rainy day fund, reducing the tentative 2012 budget’s appropriations by $688,000 to $93.5 million and cutting the property tax levy by $2.1 million to $27.7 million.
The county is also applying $832,662 in tobacco settlement proceeds toward reducing the tax levy. It normally puts that money toward capital improvements.
Supervisors may further trim the levy to be within the state’s new 2 percent cap on annual property tax increase. They remain approximately $635,000 shy of complying with the cap — which is 3.76 percent in Fulton County’s case, because some types of spending are exempt from the cap. They plan at least one additional budget work session this week before adopting the budget Friday.
Monday’s session also included public hearings on a local law to override the tax cap and on the budget. Six people spoke at the first hearing, with three against overriding the tax cap and two in favor.
Norman Richardson of Northville asked supervisors not to override the tax cap. “We all had a dream: That this was going to be nice, that the most they could kill us with was 2 percent. Now our dream is over. It is up to you and nobody else — don’t kill this tax cap,” he said.
Warren Greene, a former director of Fulton County Probation, said he supported overriding the tax cap so the county could maintain services for residents. “Just because you are overriding the tax cap does not mean you will go on a spending spree,” he said.
Ten people spoke on the budget, including officials representing unionized county workers. The officials chastised the board for not listening to their ideas on how to save money rather than opting to privatize county services and sell the county-owned nursing home.
Several speakers urged the board to “start a revolution” by withholding county Medicaid payments to the state. “I don’t care what the state does if the county does not make a payment,” said Glen Henry of Mayfield. “Get some guts here.”
The board had earlier rejected a supervisor’s proposal to withhold county Medicaid payments to the state, as the state would withhold county sales tax receipts as a penalty.
Office for the Aging Director Andrea Fettinger asked supervisors to spare her department when considering ways to close the $635,000 gap to reach the tax cap limit. She said too many senior citizens in the county depend on the office for services.
Michael F. Gendron, chairman of the board’s Finance Committee, said the board may increase 2012 sales tax projections by an additional $300,000 as a way to trim the levy. Projections for this year are coming in higher than the same period a year ago, giving supervisors hope the economy is rebounding.
Gendron said there appears to be little support on the board to eliminate the Fulton County Sheriff Department’s road patrol, a proposal floated by board Chairman David B. Howard.
The county would have saved $2 million by eliminating the road patrol, but supervisors would have also faced an uproar from residents of towns that rely on the Sheriff’s Department for protection. Town boards in Johnstown, Caroga, Ephratah and Stratford have already sent letters to supervisors asking them to keep the road patrol.
Nonetheless, during Monday’s session supervisors eliminated three vacant positions in the Sheriff’s Department from the 2012 budget: two deputies and an investigator. An amendment to keep the positions in the budget by funding them for $1 failed to win passage.
Sheriff Thomas Lorey left Monday’s session confident the board would not eliminate his 25-member road patrol, which handles 70 percent of the complaints in the county, or more than 15,000 calls annually.
“It is good news for everybody,” he said. “But it is disappointing to me that they defeated the amendment. If things get better, I will have to go in and ask for those positions to be reinstated.”
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Categories: Schenectady County