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Board Agrees to 3.56% Tax Hike

Written By Editor on 12/2/16 | 12/2/16

The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting to discuss the proposed 2017 budget. The Finance Committee worked overtime to get a draft together following the original calculations in the tentative budget presented last night.

The original budget calculation called for a 5.9% tax increase.

The County Board introduced draft Local Law 2 of 2016 to override the tax levy cap. The proposed law needs 60% of the board members.

Supervisor Larry Bradt of Carlisle asked for the Board to enter into Executive Session to discuss collective bargaining. This lasted approximately an hour.

Supervisor Tague motioned to close the public hearing on the annual budget session and also to adopt Local Law 2. The Board agreed unanimously to close the hearing.

Among the Supervisors Pete Coppolo of Middleburgh, Phil Skowfoe of Fulton, Sandra Manko of Sharon, and Shawn Smith of Blenheim voted no.

Board Chair Earl VanWormer of Esperance thanked the Finance Committee for their work, especially Cobleskill Supervisor Leo McAllister. He also thanked County Treasurer Bill Cherry.

Supervisor McAllister, chair of the Finance Committee presented major findings to the board as a whole. The Committee recommended a number of changes. This included adding a position to County Administrator Steve WIlson’s office, seeking for someone with a finance background. Another position already funded was added to the Office of the Aging.

McAllister said the Committee worked with every department within the County-- “they did a lot of work,” he said. There were a number of cuts made to the tentative budget and the recommendation to use a portion of the fund balance. “It’s a budget that’s certainly workable,” McAllister said. He thanked the Finance Committee and Board Clerk Sheryl Largeteau.

He added that the tax increase is comparable to last year’s. He said that he would prefer not raising taxes at all, but that the committee is doing what is necessary under the circumstances.

County Administrator Steve Wilson ran down a number of changes from the tentative budget. Copies of all proposed changes were distributed. Wilson said that as budget officer, any potential errors fell with him. He said that there were several lines that were not added to the tentative budget as he was learning the county accounting software. The Administrator said that he put in place a number of changes to double check the future numbers so that they would be “error free.”

Wilson recommended updating knowledge of the accounting software. “If we’re going to push financial accountability down to department heads,” he said, the county had a responsibility to sponsor more training for use of the program.

The Administrator spoke to each member of the Planning Department. These individuals recommended a number of changes to the department at no increased cost. This included having a dedicated person for agricultural development. Supervisor McAllister said that in his discussion with employees they felt this was the correct move.

Supervisor Simkins of Broome asked if more of the fund balance could be used to further reduce the levy. Wilson said that it would be a poor decision to use too much as to not adversely affect the county’s borrowing rate. He added that a reserve is needed in case of a future natural disaster. “I’m very nervous about reducing the fund balance. I hope that we can replenish it over the course of the year.” Simkins said that the current balance is similar to how it was this year.

Supervisor McAllister said that such an option was discussed by the Finance Committee and that the majority decided not to follow that path. He said the idea was “very valid” but not necessarily correct in this instance.

Supervisor Chris Tague of Schoharie said that if the County needed to make an “investment” in the future, the money would be needed. “The future is going to be us investing if we’re going to stay alive.” Chair VanWormer echoed those comments.

Supervisor Simkins said that the County’s fund balance was slightly higher than estimated. He said that using some of that fund can make the difference for taxpayers. Supervisor Richard Lape of Richmondville said that the balance should not be utilized.

Supervisor Phil Skowfoe said that the fund balance was vital, although he would not support the budget this year. “I’m just not comfortable that the figures in this budget are correct,” he said.

Supervisor Tague made a motion to adopt the budget recommended by the Finance Committee, seconded by Supervisor Bill Federice of Conesville. Supervisor Pete Coppolo of Middleburgh thanked the Finance Committee. He said that he “doesn’t like voting for tax increases, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet.” Coppolo said that there was too much criticism of the original budget.

“We don’t want to see the taxpayers pay any more than they have to,” Chair VanWormer said, “Everyone is right.” He added that the fund balance was needed in case of disaster. “Everyone has done the best they can.”

There was a roll call vote. Of the Supervisors, Bates, Coppolo, Manko, Simkins, Skowfoe, and Smith voted no. Supervisors Bates and Coppolo said they did so “reluctantly.” The weighted vote was 1857 to 955, carried. Supervisor Anthony VanGlad was excused.

The fund balance will reduce to an estimated level of $6,967,183 after using $1,125,963 for the 2017 budget to reduce the tax levy.

The proposed tax levy increase will run 3.56%. The increase in health insurance costs alone will cause an increase of $894,000-- which by itself would represent a 4.31% hike.
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Unknown said...

Everyone is upset with the ridiculous tax increases every year in this county. They want to push everyone out? But just ask the cobleskill supervisor as quoted in the times journal. No one complained last year so this should be ok...everyone complains yet no one listens...

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