Press-Republican

Local News

September 18, 2013

Franklin Co. to add tax-bill insert

MALONE — Franklin County legislators, tired of taking the heat for high taxes, want a tax-bill insert to show voters state mandates are to blame.

They recently directed Real Property Tax Service Director Jeanette Tummons to develop a one-page document with a pie chart to show how much of the annual county budget goes to programs and services the state mandates yet provides no money to carry out.

The “9 for 90” campaign initiated in 2011 by the State Association of Counties holds that about 90 percent of property taxes a county collects each year goes to fund nine state-mandated programs.

But local lawmakers have no control over how those programs are carried out.

The nine are: Medicaid; public assistance/safety net; child welfare protective and preventive care; special education; preschool/early childhood intervention; probation; indigent defense; youth detention; and pensions.

‘ALREADY IN THE RED’

Franklin County estimates — as County Manager and Budget Officer Thomas Leitz is formulating its tentative 2014 budget — that the nine programs will represent more like 140 percent of its anticipated taxes, which puts the county in the red before spending reviews even start. 

In a five-year budget outlook Leitz prepared last year, he predicted Medicaid and its associated administrative costs would increase $250,000 in 2014 and that State Retirement and health-insurance benefits would go up $875,000.

Other mandated programs are expected to cost $400,000 more than this year.

The county intends to share all of its mandate information with property owners, something they’ve tried to get off the ground for a couple of years.

“We’re doing this to educate the taxpayers,” Legislature Chairman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay) said, adding that taxpayers will see “what we’re up against. 

“They will have that information right in front of them,” he continued. “They’ll have the information we have. 

“It’s easier for us, and they can look at it.”

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