MALONE — The $103.6 million Franklin County budget drew some interest from residents as 15 people attended two days of public hearings this week.
Taxpayers turned out Thursday in Malone to hear an overview of the spending plan from County Manager and Budget Officer Thomas Leitz and legislators’ rationale for a likely override of the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap.
Five people attended similar hearings held at Harrietstown Town Hall in Saranac Lake Wednesday.
The tentative budget is $103,623,666, an increase of 3.09 percent from 2013.
The tax levy, or amount to be raised by taxes, is $16,178,524, an increase of 8.76 percent.
The average tax increase for a home valued at $100,000 would be $35.28.
Leitz tweaked numbers and borrowed more from reserve accounts in the past week and presented legislators with alternatives that would put the county at a 2.99 percent tax-levy increase to meet the tax cap.
Two Republican legislators, Marc “Tim” Lashomb of Malone and Paul Maroun of Tupper Lake, have suggested a tax increase of 4 to 5 percent instead to give the county a better cash-flow cushion in case revenues miss or expenses exceed Leitz’s projections.
The county manager said that, by comparison, Essex County is looking to increase taxes 15 percent because its fund balance is low and cash flow is poor.
“We’re not at the point to raise it double digits,” Leitz said.
‘LIVE WITHIN IT’
Legislators haven’t settled on an exact tax-increase yet, but Lawrence Cheney of St. Regis Falls wants them to stay within the tax cap.
“Most forms of government live within it,” he said. “I understand you came in under the tax cap. Live with it.”
Board Chairman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay) said that if the override isn’t adopted and the county passes an agreement mid-year for payments in lieu of taxes for a proposed hotel development at the Hotel Saranac, there would be a penalty to pay in 2015.