County budget hearing is Monday

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 December 2013 at 12:00 am

Residents can comment on budget that raises taxes 5%

ALBION – Residents get a chance Monday to air their views on a proposed $79.8 million county budget that would raise taxes 5 percent.

The county is holding a public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. at the Orleans County Courthouse. The Legislature has scheduled a 9 a.m. meeting on Wednesday at the neighboring County Clerks Building to vote on the spending plan.

The budget would increase the tax rate by 40 cents to $10.11 per $1,000 of assessed property. It exceeds the state property tax cap. The Legislature voted to override the cap last month. The previous two county budgets were under the tax cap, which is set at about a 2 percent increase.

The proposed budget will sustain core services, and it also includes the first payment of $475,000 on an upgrade to the county’s emergency communications system.

Another cost driven is a $558,000 increase in county welfare costs. The state is shifting Family Assistance and Safety Net costs to the local and federal governments, Chuck Nesbitt, the county chief administrative officer, said in a budget message.

Besides property tax, sales tax is the best weapon the county has locally for paying for county government costs. Sales tax, however, is running behind the 2012 collections through 2013, a lag the county attributes to a drop in gas prices this year.

County officials have budgeted for a modest $25,000 increase in sales tax. The county takes in about $15 million a year in sales tax. More sales tax would reduce the demand on property taxes.

The new budget takes effect on Jan. 1.