PLATTSBURGH — Under the 2020 Clinton County budget adopted Wednesday night, the tax rate will drop five cents to $5.90 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The total spending plan comes to $174,068,077, with a total tax levy of $29,745,058.
The 1.7 percent increase over 2019 falls below the state tax cap.
County Administrator and Budget Officer Mike Zurlo said there were no substantive changes between the tentative and adopted budgets, only minor ones that did not change the tax levy.
"The tax rate this year is less than it was when I started, which I think is due to a number of factors," Clinton County Legislature Chair Harry McManus (D-Area 1), who was first elected to the board 12 years ago, said.
"We have invested a lot of money in Clinton County in economic development and tourism and it’s paying off.
"That’s a decision we all made collectively, together."
The budget is in such good shape due to sales tax, which specifically deals with those investments, McManus added.
"We’ve wisely, in my opinion, over the last 12 years, invested money in projects that we think show progress for that entire time period."
Both McManus and Legislator Mark Dame (R-Area 8) thanked Zurlo for his work on the budget.
"This is a very solid budget," Dame said.
"It has a miniscule property tax levy increase and it certainly should be palatable to the taxpayers."
However, 2020 will bring some challenges and expenses that must be reigned in, Dame added.
He reminded his fellow legislators that the budget is an estimate of expenses and revenues.
"The fact that it’s in the budget and it’s ... in the line item doesn’t mean that at any time we can’t change our minds or come up with a more economical way to either buy that or provide that service.
"The fact of the matter remains that $29.7 million is being levied on our hardworking taxpayers and ... I think I can speak for all of us that we respect those taxpayers and we will be wise with it."
ON THE RISE
Legislator Simon Conroy (D-Area 4) said it is important to remember that the county is always on the lookout to provide services in a more efficient way.
"That is a huge part of our responsibility: to deliver these services at a good price," he continued.
"At the same time, I think the county has been doing a good job at also looking into investing in quality of life and economic development."
Conroy said a little bit of investment in those areas goes a long way.
"I really see this area on the rise and I see a lot of the county's role in being an important part of that rise."
LOVE FOR COUNTY
Legislator Patty Waldron (D-Area 6) also thanked Zurlo on behalf of her district.
"I want to say you really made us legislators look better than we probably are," she said.
"I profoundly want to thank you for what you do for this county and for the love that you do have for this county."
Zurlo called the budget a team effort and said a lot of work goes on behind the scenes.
He thanked Accountant Lee Mitchell, Personnel Director Kimberly Kinblom, Deputy County Administrator Rodney Brown and the County Treasurer's Office.
"We are surrounded by a team of people ... and the entire staff as well as you folks have done some wonderful things in your decisions on who you hired to run your departments.
"You have hired a good group of management and we have a dedicated workforce in this county."
During committee reports, Conroy thanked McManus, who will step down at the end of this year due to term limits, for allowing him to serve as the chair of the County Operations and Economic Development Committee.
"It's been a great opportunity," he said.
Legislator Chris Rosenquest (D-Area 9) also expressed his gratitude to the chairman.
"In the four years I’ve learned three things from you: build consensus, remain open-minded and stay level-headed. I’m working on that third one still," he said.
"But I appreciate your advice, both personal and professional, and thank you for everything."
The legislature's final regular session is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 23.
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