Schoharie County board finishes trimming budget

Supervisors have finished hacking away at a tentative 2012 budget for Schoharie County, trimming an

Supervisors have finished hacking away at a tentative 2012 budget for Schoharie County, trimming an initial 7.1 percent tax levy increase down to 1.8 percent and cutting the county work force by more than 30 positions.

Blenheim town Supervisor Robert Mann Jr., chairman of the county Board of Supervisor’s Finance Committee, said the full board on Dec. 9 will consider a $59 million spending plan.

Saved from the budget ax were road patrol deputies and staff in the Emergency Medical Services Department, but Mann said he expects 2012 will be a year when residents start feeling the impact of spending cuts.

“We’re not trying to kid anybody, I think this budget will mean less services,” he said.

The budget includes the loss of roughly 30 full-time and seven part-time positions. A dozen of these positions are vacant.

“None of us enjoy having to make these kinds of cuts. We know this is going to affect some really good people in a negative way,” Mann said. “But we also have to recognize that the residents can really only afford a tax burden of just so much.”

The committee ultimately drew $1.44 million from the fund balance — a rainy day fund of money unspent in previous budget years — instead of the $1 million initially planned.

The changes will bring down a tax increase initially proposed at an average of 8 percent, but exactly how much was unclear Thursday as estimates for municipalities were not immediately available.

A portion of that money, $175,000, was pulled from a fund being saved to pay for a major upgrade planned for the public safety facility. It’s unclear if the facility, inundated by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Irene, will be repaired or whether a new one will be built farther from the Schoharie Creek, so the upgrade money isn’t needed at this point.

Another $169,000 in revenue was pulled out of a reserve account that’s been stowing sales tax revenue from the sale of gasoline, Mann said.

The modified spending plan calls for the loss of 15 jail staff members — eight deputies, three corrections officers, three cooks and a chaplain — but no road patrol deputy positions are slated to be cut.

Mann said the state Corrections Commission is calling for the county to maintain a work force of 26 jail guards, even though the county jail is closed because of flood damage.

“It seems, quite frankly, absurd in my opinion. We did reduce below that level, so there may need to be some duties that get transferred to road patrol,” he said.

Because there is no functioning jail in Schoharie County, corrections officers must transport inmates to and from other counties’ jails.

The budget as it currently stands complies with the state’s new 2 percent tax increase cap, but without mandate relief, next year’s budget will be even more difficult to draw up, he said.

“While it’s popular, the state [tax cap] didn’t relieve any mandates on the programs, and there’s so much of our budget that we can’t control,” Mann said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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