PLATTSBURGH — Clinton County legislators are poised to approve the 2014 budget next week after an uneventful public hearing.
“Other counties are struggling, and I think our budget is a tribute to (county administrator and budget officer) Mike Zurlo and his staff,” Legislator Robert Butler (R-Area 6, Saranac) said at the hearing Wednesday night.
“He is a special individual, and we appreciate his efforts in leading this county down the right path.”
Zurlo orchestrated the $157 million spending plan for 2014, which features an increase in the tax levy of .08 percent and a composite tax rate of $6.07 per $1,000 of assessed property value, the same as 2013.
The .08 percent increase in the tax levy is well within the state cap, which for Clinton County would have been 4.1 percent after allowable factors were added to the base cap rate of 1.66 percent.
The only comments made at the public hearing came from William Laundry, who was speaking as vice president of the Clinton County Historical Association.
Laundry thanked the county legislators for their financial support, which is $25,000 for 2014, the same as this year.
“We truly appreciate what the county does for us because quite literally we would not be able to do what we do,” he said.
Legislator Sara Rowden (D-Area 4, Town of Plattsburgh), who chairs the county’s Finance Committee, said the county has done well in sales-tax revenue and occupancy-tax revenue in part because of efforts from groups such as the Historical Association.
“Historical tourism is a big thing in this area, and you are a big part of that,” Rowden told Laundry.
The county is benefiting from an outstanding year in sales-tax revenue, as figures are about $3.2 million ahead of projections, with the holiday season, typically the biggest in terms of sales tax, still ongoing.
The county has also done well in occupancy-tax revenue, known as the bed tax. The 3 percent charge for all hotel and motel rooms aids the county’s tourism promotion efforts, operated by the Plattsburgh/North Country Chamber of Commerce’s Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau.
The county is on pace to eclipse the $523,484 in occupancy tax it generated last year. Its pledge to the chamber for this year was $440,000.
Legislator John Gallagher (D-Area 9, City of Plattsburgh) also praised Zurlo and county department heads for their efforts.
“They brought us a budget we can work with and get through smoothly without changing the tax rate,” he said.
Legislator Robert Heins (R-Area 10, City of Plattsburgh) said that having Zurlo and his staff put the budget together works well for the county, instead of having legislators, who are part-time representatives, do the job.
“He (Zurlo) is worth his weight in gold,” Heins said.
“They do the heavy lifting and have been able to keep taxes low for us.”
Legislator Mark Dame (R-Area 8, City and Town of Plattsburgh) said the county has been fortunate to have many Canadians visit the area and spend money here.
“But we can’t always bank on that,” he said, warning that the legislature needs to continue to make prudent financial decisions.
Legislator Jonathan Beach (R-Area 2, Altona) said Zurlo and the staff’s skills will aid the county for the long term.
“One of their attributes is their ability to look ahead and see what these decisions will do for us in the future,” he said.
Legislator-elects Robert Hall (D-Area 10), Patty Waldron (D-Area 6) and Colin Read (D-Area 4) attended the budget public hearing, as did treasurer-elect Kim Davis, a Democrat.
Following the meeting, Hall, a city councilor in the 1980s, said he was glad the legislature is putting forth such a solid budget for the first year of his four-year term.
“In the city, the aldermen (councilors) had to bring the department heads in and make all the decisions, but in the county you have Mike Zurlo and his staff take care of that, and that is better because they are here every day and know more about the day-to-day operations,” Hall said.
Legislators agreed that they will not need to meet again before voting on the budget at their Dec. 11 meeting.
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