December 7, 2012

Franklin County under tax cap

MALONE — Franklin County adopted its 2013 budget Thursday with a 1.91 tax-levy increase.

The budget totals $100,521,052, a decrease of 10.69 percent from the current spending plan.

The tax levy, or the amount to be raised by taxes, is $14,875,816, an increase of $278,803, or 1.91 percent, from the current year.

Equalization rates to determine the cost per $1,000 of assessed-property value were not available Thursday.

The spending plan includes increasing the staff at the County Jail, road projects, equipment purchases and raises for non-union employees who have not had one for at least three years.

Sales-tax revenue for 2013 is estimated at $21 million.

And there will be $450,000 in health-insurance reimbursements the county is entitled to receive for costs associated with Department of Social Services retirees.

The county can seek retroactive reimbursement of that money going back two years, so there could be as much as $1 million returning to the county before the end of 2013, said County Treasurer Bryon Varin.


Legislators also passed a resolution to override the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap by a vote of 6 to 1, calling it “preventive maintenance” if the budget comes up short for unforeseen reasons.

“In case our calculations aren’t correct, this is just to protect ourselves,” said Timothy Burpoe (D-Saranac Lake), who chairs the Finance Committee.

County Manager and Budget Officer Thomas Leitz and Varin agreed the numbers are solid and will keep the county under the mandated cap.


But Burpoe said he struggles to understand Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s logic in thinking that remaining under the tax cap can be achieved without mandate relief.

The New York Association of Counties determined that 90 percent of a county budget pays for nine mandated programs that have limited or no state reimbursement attached to them.

And, according to figures from Leitz, Franklin County will spend all of its 2013 tax levy and another $7.55 million from sales-tax revenue to pay for those programs and services next year. They are probation ($970,000); early-childhood intervention ($188,000); indigent defense ($877,000); youth detention ($219,000); public assistance/safety net ($3,128,000); child welfare, ($1.65 million); Medicaid ($10.2 million); and pension ($4 million).

Leitz said that if not for those mandates, the county would have a budget surplus of nearly $8 million, “and we’d all be happy.”

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