ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County lawmakers moved the decimal point in the proposed county budget’s 26 percent tax hike Thursday and called it a day.
After 3 1/2 hours of wrangling, the County Board of Supervisors reduced the tax-levy increase from 26.8 percent to just 2.6 percent, which is under the state tax-cap formula for Essex County.
The 2013 budget will now add just 9 cents to the existing county property-tax rate.
The session Thursday was a workshop only, and the board won’t vote on the cuts until its regular meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 4. The amended budget won’t be official until the board votes at a special meeting after the last public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10.
The chief savings came after supervisors learned the county had an additional $2.8 million coming from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that hadn’t been included as revenue in the new budget.
The funds are reimbursement for infrastructure damage suffered in the 2011 floods in the county.
“It’s an anticipated revenue,” said Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah), chair of the County Finance Committee. “We did all our repairs from cash on hand.”
The cuts also reduce raises for management-confidential employees from 3 percent to 2 percent next year. The management-confidential group hasn’t had any raises for three years, while union members have had contractual pay increases during that time.
A new Civil Service Employees Association contract is being negotiated, but County Manager Daniel Palmer said there’s nothing set aside in the budget for any raises for those workers.
Department heads and members of the Board of Supervisors are also not getting pay raises in the new budget.
Supervisor William Ferebee (R-Keene) said he was sorry department-head raises were removed.
“They do a fantastic job. It’s a shame they’re not monetarily recognized.”