St. Lawrence County Faces Tax Increase Of Nearly 20%
St. Lawrence County residents crowded into Monday night's Board of Legislators meeting to get a look at county administrator Karen St. Hilaire's 2013 budget proposal.
Because of rising costs and falling revenues, this tentative budget calls for a nearly $56 million tax levy and a property tax rate increase of 19 percent.
The increase would be $10.38 per $1,000 dollars of assessed value, or an extra $166 dollars next year on a $100,000 house.
"Obviously 19 percent is not acceptable." said Legislator Dan Parker.
"I don't know of anybody in this room that would find that acceptable. We certainly have our work cut out for us," he said.
"The next 16 weeks, there's going to be a lot of conversation and controversy over what we're going to do, but we've got to do something," Legislator Donald Peck said.
The county administrator's budget plan calls for cutting four more staff positions.
Program cuts would continue too, with cancer services, home repair for seniors and support for almost all outside agencies among the items on the chopping block.
St. Hilaire points out, though, that even if lawmakers cut every non-mandated program, they'd still only get about halfway to closing the budget gap.
"I think everything is on the table right now, and it's too early to say what would be the answer," Parker said.
One option they're discussing is keeping more of the sales tax revenue the county usually shares with local municipalities.
Some lawmakers say the answer lies in increasing the sales tax rate.
"We would be out of this mess that we're in," Peck said.
That long-sought fix has failed to gain the necessary support from state lawmakers.
But, county lawmakers aren't giving up just yet.
They agreed to hire a lobbyist and pay the firm $5,000 a month for the next year to represent the county's interests in Albany.
It was a divisive move - five legislators voted against it - but those in favor say it's a necessary expense.
Saturday, May 18, 2013, Watertown, NY
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