Feedback: County Struggles To Keep Deal To Lower Taxes

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Members of the county's budget team are continuing to crunch numbers as they work on drafting next year's budget.

The new spending plan has to drop property taxes by 14 percent in 2014.

That's the same amount legislators raised taxes under the current budget.

As part of a five-year deal, legislators promised to drop taxes to justify winning state approval for a one percent sales tax increase, which goes into effect December 1.

The question is - can they live up to the deal?

"We are going to give what we promised the people. We promised a 14.2 percent tax decrease, we're going to get there. How we get there is still to be determined," said Karen St. Hilaire, county administrator.

County officials say additional revenues from Mohawk tribal compact payments, a $385,000 savings from eliminating Public Heath's Certified Home Health Agency and the fact the state is becoming more timely in paying its reimbursements will all provide a little breathing room and help rebuild a depleted fund balance.

"That hasn't meant that we can just have a free for all and bring the budget back up to what it used to be. We're still restricting budgets. We're still cutting where we can," said Kevin Felt, county treasurer.

But cash flow shortages are continuing to plague county finances requiring the borrowing of $10 million to help the county meet its pension bill.

That could save about $60,000 roughly $60,000.

While county officials wouldn't release any specific dollar amounts, we are being told the targeted 14 percent decrease still hasn't been reached yet.

Sources tell us the Sheriff's Office road patrol is expected to stay intact.

The budget team met with Social Services and county highway department heads - two other high cost budget areas - as the budget process continues.

The county administrator's tentative budget will be given to legislators next month.

It will then be up to them to decide what stays or goes and whether additional cuts are necessary. 

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Friday, August 22, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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