St. Lawrence County Lawmakers Have $3M Worry

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While the county's tentative $236 million spending plan for next year drops property taxes by 14 percent - nearly the same amount they went up this year - county Finance Committee Chair Fred Morrill says taxpayers should be happy:

"I'd characterize it as successful. We made a promise. The bottom line meets that promise," said Morrill.

While the county continues to walk a delicate financial tightrope, it plans to use approximately $12 million from a one percent sales tax increase that takes effect December 1 to cut the tax levy.

Some of the new tax revenue would also be placed in a special capital spending fund for replacing equipment as well as infrastructure needs.

County officials say under the tentative budget, an average property owner with a $100,000 assessed home would see a tax drop next year of more than $150.

"I think people are having a hard time, but I think because of where we live and as conservative as people are up here, I think people go without other things to make sure that their taxes get paid," said Kevin Felt, county treasurer.

The county also plans to save close to $200,000 by making staffing adjustments in several departments even though there will be no layoffs or new hires as some jobs will be grant funded or positions will be added when others are eliminated.

The one cloudy area of the budget involves anticipated tribal compact funds to the tune of about $3 million.

But there is no guarantee the state will release those funds to the county and that worries Legislator Joe Lightfoot.

"Ninety-five percent of the money we collect in property taxes goes to pay for these mandates. That leaves 5 percent for roads, public safety," said Lightfoot (R. - Distict 3).
 
Legislators will begin the budget review process next week when the finance committee meets in special session on Tuesday.

Thursday, July 31, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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