MALONE — Franklin County narrowly adopted its 2014 budget by a vote of 4 to 3 on Thursday, raising the tax levy 5.05 percent to fund the $102 million plan.
The average tax-bill increase on a home valued at $100,000 will be about $21.25 next year.
The budget totals $102,694,972, an increase of 1.73 percent from this year.
The amount to be raised by taxes is $15,627,066, an increase of 5.05 percent.
The tax rates per $1,000 of assessed-property value for each township, adopted following the budget vote, are: Bangor, $4.40; Bellmont, $4.40; Bombay, $161.97; Brandon, $4.86; Brighton, $5.12; Burke, $6.96; Chateaugay, $4.40; Constable, $39.90; Dickinson, $4.41; Duane, $5.13; Fort Covington, $4.40; Franklin, $4.40; Harrietstown, $4.12; Malone, $5.23; Moira, $4.40; Santa Clara, $4.40; Tupper Lake, $4.41; Waverly, $4.40; and Westville, $4.41.
Legislators Sue Robideau (R-Brushton), Paul Maroun (R-Tupper Lake) Marc “Tim” Lashomb (R-Malone) and Timothy Burpoe (D-Saranac Lake) voted for the budget, while Tim Smith (D-Fort Covington), Gordon Crossman (D-Malone) and Board Chairman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay) voted against it.
Burpoe, who is chairman of the Finance Committee and did not seek re-election, praised his colleagues and all who helped with the budget, saying the board made difficult choices and must focus on real need.
“We are providing services, and we are providing to people who possibly don’t pay property tax,” he said. “But that’s what we do, so we have to prioritize.”
LaShomb said that increasing taxes in small increments in consecutive years, as opposed to double-digit numbers, would help the county rebuild its depleted fund balance, a concern pointed out in an audit earlier this year by the State Comptroller’s Office.
“With the 5.05 percent, we won’t impose that kind of increase,” he said.
UPS FUND BALANCE
Crossman said he wouldn’t approve the budget because “too many of my people are struggling to try to stay in their homes.”
Smith told another legislator he couldn’t say yes because, “I’ll be laughed out of Fort Covington.”
The board split along the same lines before the budget vote when they were asked to change the tentative budget’s tax-levy increase from the original 8.76 percent to 5.05 percent.
However, legislators did unanimously vote to override the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap.
The county could have raised taxes just 2.99 percent to meet the tax-cap limit, using all of its allowable credits and exemptions.
But raising the tax levy to 5.05 percent allows legislators to bank about 2 percent of the money in the fund balance.
Maroun said that if the override had not been passed and the county were to go over its allowable tax limit, “we would be in jeopardy next year, we’d be penalized for it, and we would not be in line with state statute.”
For the first time since the tax cap was imposed, Jones said he had to vote in favor of the override because possible payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements on two lucrative hotel projects under review in Saranac Lake could work against the county if it was not adopted.
“Next year, we have to be very, very disciplined and get to this fallacy they call a cap,” he said.
Within the spending package is $45,000 in raises for department heads and non-union staff, with a majority of the 90 people receiving $500 each.
And legislators have planned another negotiating session with members of the Sheriff’s Department union to come up with a new contract.
The county failed to ratify an agreement the union approved last month that called for 2 percent raises the first two years and a 2.5 percent hike in the third year because there was also a request for hazard-pay stipends.
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