Jefferson County landowners face slight tax increase under proposed budget

Jefferson County budget unveiling

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Jefferson County's proposed budget is out for 2020 and property taxes are set to go up "ever so slightly," county administrator Bob Haggeman said.

Haggeman appeared on 7 News This Morning to explain what’s behind the increase and some of the financial challenges the county faces.

You can see that interview in the video.

The $259 million spending plan will increase the tax rate by 1.18 percent, which would raise the tax bill for a $100,000 home by $9.

Haggeman says the increase is due to new mandates from the state, including cashless bail and various other criminal justice mandates and reforms.

"They're going to be dramatic," he said. "They start as of the first of the year, and I would suggest that across the board, what we're seeing in counties throughout New York state, is a real, genuine concern of how that's going to shake out program wise, as well as in terms of dollars and cents."

For Jefferson County, that means hiring another assistant district attorney, a data collector in the dispatch center, and three people in the public defender's office.

Those new hires, as well as others in recent years, "have been strictly due to the mandates issue."

Haggeman said the county decided not to dip into the fund balance -- or savings -- to pay for the additional spending instead of raising taxes.

"We have been on a mission over the past couple of years to bring our fund balance in line with, essentially, financial standards," he said. "For the first time, this year, 2020, in probably four or five, we are now there."

Now that the county has reached that level, he said, "one of the things we don't want to do is then dip back in the fund balance and find ourselves on the low end again."

The county Legislature meets Monday night for its first budget work session.

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