The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday adopted a $69.7 million budget for 2016 with a 3.56 percent increase in the tax levy.
That exceeds the state’s tax cap, which worked out to an allowable increase of just 0.73 percent for 2016. The board adopted a local law allowing the override on Nov. 20.
The tax levy in the adopted budget is down from the 5.81 percent increase proposed in the tentative budget, but that still wasn’t enough for some supervisors.
Town of Conesville Supervisor William Federice, who voted “no” along with four other supervisors, said the tax hike was “just too much.”
“My constituents, to a person, told me, ‘Please don’t vote for the budget. It’s just too high, too much taxes,’ ” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Federice was joined in his “no” vote by supervisors from Middleburgh, Sharon, Fulton and Summit, though not all for the same reasons.
The average county tax rate for 2016 had not yet been calculated on Wednesday.
The Finance Committee of the Board of Supervisors managed to bring the tax levy down from the tentative budget by about $455,000 in part by eliminating a proposed economic development department, according to County Treasurer and Budget Officer Bill Cherry.
Cherry said the budget eliminates a few positions through attrition, but does not cut any active personnel.
This was the first time in Cherry’s five terms in office that he recommended overriding the state’s tax cap. In his tentative budget, he attributed the situation to increases in health insurance premiums, the creation of the county administrator position, and the first year of repayments on the county’s roughly $25 million stream bank reconstruction project.
The budget draws $1.1 million from the county’s general fund, leaving it with about $6 million, Cherry said.
Federice said Tuesday he planned to introduce some cost-cutting measures for the next budget cycle, though he declined to elaborate.
Town of Sharon Supervisor Sandra Manko said she also opposed the budget for its tax increase, and would have liked to have seen more cuts as well as a higher estimate of sales tax revenue.
Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond on Tuesday night again asked the board for some extra personnel. His requests were denied.
“Sheriff Desmond needs help, and I understand,” Manko said. “But before the budget meetings even started, we made a motion that no new positions [would be] created and no upgrades. So we can’t make exceptions for him.”
Desmond on Wednesday said an extra investigator would have helped his department put much-needed resources into drug investigations.
“Schoharie County is no different than anywhere else,” he said. “Heroin is a problem and we just don’t have the manpower at this time to deal with it the way we should.”
While Manko and Federice opposed the tax hike, Summit Supervisor Harold Vroman said he voted against the budget because he thought it cut too deeply. He said he would have preferred to keep the economic development department in the budget because “that’s something that brings money into the county,” as well as invest in equipment upgrades in the Department of Public Works.
Reach Gazette reporter Kyle Adams at 764-4402, [email protected] or @KyleRAdams on Twitter.