St. Lawrence County Lawmaker Proposes 'Drastic' Budget Cuts

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St. Lawrence County would see some drastic job and service cuts under a budget cutting plan that Finance Committee Chairman Fred Morrill says he wants to see put on the table for consideration.

"The cuts are extremely drastic and dramatic," Morrill said.

"My reasoning was that people cannot afford a 19 percent increase in property taxes."

That tax increase is what county residents are facing under the 2013 tentative budget laid out last week.

The plan calls for a $9.3 million increase in the tax levy.

Morill says that's unacceptable and he's put together a proposal to cut $7 million out of that plan.

Among other things, he wants to make more than $5 million in non-mandated spending cuts, eliminate the sheriff's road patrol, and reduce the share of sales tax distributed to towns and villages by 10 percent.

"This total adds up to $7 million, which is half of what we would get with the sales tax increase," Morrill said.

That long-sought fix of raising the county's sales tax rate by 1 percent has been blocked by state lawmakers, who have refused to sponsor the necessary home rule legislation in the Senate.

There is just a little bit of movement on that front, though.

State Sen. Joe Griffo has introduced separate legislation that would allow the county to raise its sales tax, but would require voters to approve the measure with a mandatory referendum before it could take effect.

State Sen. Patty Ritchie also supports the idea of a referendum, but has not committed to supporting any bill in Albany.

It's too late to put a referendum on the November ballot. Even if a special election were held, it's unlikely to make a difference for the 2013 budget.

So, in the meantime, Fred Morrill says his budget cutting proposal needs to be considered.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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