Press-Republican

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November 10, 2012

'Palmer plan' introduced to get budgets under control

Would stabilize taxes over 3 years; would increase levy 26 percent next year

ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County Manager Daniel Palmer has come up with a three-year plan to fix the county budget crisis.

In an effort to get the County Board of Supervisors to buy into it, he presided over an almost two-hour budget session earlier this week.

The Palmer plan would increase the amount raised by taxes 26, 16 and 3 percent, respectively, for 2013, ‘14 and ‘15.

MORE CUTS SUGGESTED

One supervisor, Randy Preston (I-Wilmington), countered that the county should lay off workers and make more cuts to balance the budget instead of raising taxes substantially next year.

Despite that opposition, Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) said the consensus seemed to be with the Palmer plan.

“We’re hearing we’re going with the three-year plan,” he said. “This is a very difficult budget year.”

The draft budget for 2013 started with a $12 million deficit, which was pared to $8.6 million, Palmer said.

To meet the state’s 2 percent tax-levy cap, they could either use $8.3 million from the remaining $10 million fund balance or lay off 75 county employees and use $4 million from fund balance, the manager said.

“If you lay off 75 people, I don’t think you could meet your federal and state mandates,” Palmer said.

YEAR BY YEAR

The board has approved a local law to override the tax cap for 2013, and Palmer said that would be the first year of the plan.

The specifics are:

2013 plan: $20.5 million levy, 26 percent increase, with $4.35 million from fund balance. Tax rate $3.10 per $1,000 of assessment (currently $2.41).

2014 plan: $23.7 million levy, 16 percent increase, with $1 million from fund balance. Tax rate $3.58.

2015 plan: $24.4 million levy, 3 percent increase, with no fund balance used. Tax rate $3.68.

DWINDLING SURPLUS

Part of Palmer’s plan is to no longer rely heavily on the county’s fund balance.

“If we don’t stick to this plan or something similar to this, the problem just compounds,” he said.

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