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December 11, 2012

Essex County budget approved at 1.1 percent tax hike

ELIZABETHTOWN — The one person who spoke at Monday night’s public hearing on the new Essex County budget made a forecast of financial doom if anticipated federal money doesn’t come through.

Karen Brown of Lewis told the County Board of Supervisors the budget shouldn’t rely so heavily on a $2.8 million Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement for last year’s floods.

“What if we don’t get the FEMA money?” she said. “They took it from Vermont.”

Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said he didn’t know about that, but the money has been coming in gradually.

“The money is pretty much assured it’s going to be funneled in to you (the county),” Douglas said.

The new budget is now a 1.1 percent tax-levy increase over the current budget, County Manager Daniel Palmer said at the budget hearing.

The tax levy in the 2013 budget is $16.4 million, creating a tax rate of $2.47 per $1,000 of assessment, up from $2.42 this year. The budget totals about $102 million in appropriations.

“The increase in the tax rate will be 5 cents,” Palmer said.

The budget passed by a weighted vote of 2,077 to 718, with Supervisors Gerald Morrow (D-Chesterfield), William Ferebee (R-Keene), Margaret Bartley (D-Elizabethtown), David Blades (R-Lewis), Sue Montgomery Corey (D-Minerva), George Canon (R-Newcomb), Ronald Moore (R-North Hudson) and Daniel Connell (D-Westport) opposed and the St. Armand seat vacant.

County Attorney Daniel Manning III said the State Comptroller’s Office advised them to pass an override of the state tax cap, in case there were made miscalculations in the cap formula.

“Potentially, you could be off,” Palmer said. “They said since you’re so close (to the cap), you should do it that way.”

Manning said the state will financially penalize the county if it goes over the cap and doesn’t approve an override.

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