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December 11, 2012

Essex County budget approved at 1.1 percent tax hike

(Continued)

The tax-cap override failed, 11 to 6, with Supervisors Roby Politi (R-North Elba), Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay), Sharon Boisen (I-Essex), Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah), Edward Hatch (D-Willsboro) and Randy Preston (I-Wilmington) voting against it. The St. Armand seat is vacant.

Supervisors who voted against it said they did so because they felt the county had met the cap.

Palmer said it turns out the cap formula for Essex County is 1.13 percent, the state told them earlier in the day, not the 2.6 percent they’d previously computed.

The supervisors had already reduced the levy hike to 2.6 percent in budget workshops, and they moved in more of $1.9 million in anticipated property-tax sale proceeds to balance the budget Monday night.

The board took $2.8 million in FEMA reimbursement, reduced department-head and management-confidential raises from 3 percent to 2 percent, removed $497,000 in equipment, held all contract agencies to current levels and used $565,000 in tax-sale proceeds.

Blades read a lengthy written statement on the budget process.

“Ladies and gentlemen, coal must be rationed if we are to see substantial cuts in county spending,” Blades said, in part. “We’ve got make those difficult decisions now and not in the future.”

Bartley said the tax cap is pushing the budget further from being balanced, not closer.

“I can’t support pushing our county deficit even deeper than it is already.”

Politi said he’s also worried about some of the anticipated revenue they’re using to reduce the budget.

“I think this is about making it through a difficult financial time in the state. I don’t like taking risks, either. Yet, I know how difficult times are.”

Some of the budget is dependent on revenue they might not, but expect to, receive next year: FEMA funds and tax-sale proceeds.

With the FEMA money, which would have gone into the fund balance, the county be using $6.8 million of the county’s surplus.

Email Lohr McKinstry:

lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com

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