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County budget would raise taxes 5 percent

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 November 2013 at 12:00 am

ALBION – Orleans County officials have put together a $79.8 million budget for 2014, a spending plan that would raise taxes by 5.0 percent and increase the tax rate by 40 cents to $10.11 per $1,000 of assessed property.

The document isn’t final and could be adjusted before its final adoption, Chairman David Callard said after the Legislature’s meeting today.

The county will have a public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. on Dec. 2 at the county courthouse.

The county stayed under the state imposed property tax cap in 2012 and 2013, but the proposed budget for 2014 would surpass the 2 percent cap. (The cap makes some exceptions. The county’s cap for next year is actually 3.08 percent.)

The Legislature voted to override the tax cap in a 5-1 vote today. Legislator Don Allport cast the lone no vote.

County officials say the budget will sustain core services. It also includes the first payment of $475,000 on an upgrade to the county’s emergency communications system.

The county’s welfare costs are projected to increase by $558,000 due the state 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.

There is some good budget news. The county’s share for Medicaid is budgeted to drop $170,292. The county’s pension costs will go down $169,376 – from $4,440,393 to $4,271,017.

The county’s health insurance costs also are projected to drop by $157,340, partly due to employee cost sharing and less expensive health insurance plans. The worker’s compensation costs also are budgeted to drop by $100,376.

The county’s sales tax revenue has helped offset increases in the past, especially during years with gas prices on the rise. Sales tax is running under budget so far this year with gas prices dropping.

The county has budgeted for a modest $25,000 increase in sales tax. Callard said it’s smart to be prudent in forecasting sales tax, which generates about $15 million a year for the county, with a small portion shared with the towns and villages.

Although gas prices are down, resulting in slowing sales tax, if it’s a really cold winter, and residents go through heating oil, the sales tax number could jump, Callard said.

“It’s really difficult to predict because many factors can make a difference,” he said.

The budget also raises the fee for annual garbage collection by $5 to $190 per household.