Schenectady County officials say otherwise, but we’d be shocked if the budget due to be presented for the Legislature’s consideration Monday hasn’t, for the most part, been finished for weeks and doesn’t include a tax hike that exceeds the state-mandated 2.95 percent cap. Why else would they have bothered to schedule a public hearing on an override, and planned to vote on the measure immediately after the hearing?
Budgets don’t get thrown together in the final day or two before they’re statutorily due to be submitted; they take weeks, if not months, especially in tough years like this one (which officials say is thanks to increasing Medicaid and pension costs, while refusing to recognize the county nursing home’s $7 million-a-year drag).
So the need for an override to accommodate County Manager Kathleen Rooney’s budget proposal has most likely been in the cards for awhile, even though they claim they won’t know for sure until Monday.
As for the public hearing, could leaders have picked a less-convenient time, 6 p.m. on a Friday night? We suppose they could have scheduled it for 3 o’clock Sunday morning if they’d wanted to make sure no one would show up, but 6 p.m. on a Friday is pretty darned inconvenient for people who like to start their weekends when they get out of work Friday afternoon, or who leave town, etc.
And how about the vote on the cap? Does it have to be held immediately after the hearing, depriving legislators of an opportunity to let what taxpayers might say there sink in? The answer appears to be yes, because the budget is due to be released Monday. But if the hearing hadn’t been scheduled for the last available weekday before Oct. 1, it might have allowed lawmakers a little time to consider the public’s input.
It appears that county Democrats have been preparing for a big tax hike this year, to obviate the need for one in an election year. That’s politics, but taxpayers who are unhappy about the prospects of a large tax hike this year and won’t have an opportunity to express their dissatisfaction at the polls, should be sure to show up Friday and be heard.