Essex County Board of Supervisors
Members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors put the wheels in motion to override New York State’s two percent tax levy cap during a special meeting Nov. 18.
Supervisors voted 15-2 in favor of introducing a local law to override the cap which would still need to go through a public hearing and a second vote of the county board where it would need to receive a 60 percent majority vote in order to receive passage. Supervisors Sharon Boisen (Essex) and Randy Preston (Wilmington) voted against the resolution. Minerva Supervisor Sue Montgomery-Corey, who was not in the chamber for the vote, said she would have voted in favor of the resolution.
“At this juncture, this is to get the measure into the pipeline,” County Attorney Dan Manning said about the introductory resolution. “The resolution would have to be passed by a 60 percent majority vote before you pass your budget. Even if you pass the local law, that does not mandate that you have to be over the cap with your budget. There will also be a public hearing.”
Board chairman and Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas said the hearing would either take place along with the public hearing on the tentative Essex County Budget Nov. 25 or before the Dec. 2 regular board meeting.
The tentative 2014 county budget, submitted Nov. 15 by County Manager Dan Palmer, called for a 15.16 percent increase to the tax levy from $16,461,016 in 2013 to $18,955,771 proposed for 2014.
Palmer said the 2014 budget was the first step in a five year plan to bring Essex County back to having a balanced budget.
“Last year we tried to develop a three year plan to get us back to where we would no longer have to use fund balance and get us back to a balanced budget,” Palmer said. “This year, we looked at a five year plan where we would be back to a balanced budget by 2018. The other option was to make it a one year plan where you would have a 33 percent increase and then be back to a balanced budget. After discussion, it was determined that a compromise should be reached and that is why we filed the budget with a 15 percent tax levy increase. The larger the increase in the first year of an recovery plan, the larger the benefits you receive at the end of the plan.”
Palmer said that the plan would call for a 10 percent increase to the levy in year two, eight percent in year three, five percent in year four and two percent in year five.
“It is just a matter of how you spread this increase out to the taxpayers, if you do it over three years or over five years,” Palmer said. “This will still be below the tax rate that was in place in 2004. We have still not exceeded that under the plan that was presented.”
Palmer also suggested to board members that any cuts made from the tentative plan needed to be ones that would last.
“If you are going to make an adjustment to the budget, then it should be a permanent adjustment,” Palmer said. “If you are going to take something out that is not permanent, then you are going to have issues in coming years.”
The 2014 tentative budget calls for $94,917,464 in spending, a .09 percent drop from $95,000,115 in 2013. Revenues are expected to increase from $71,689,099 in 2013 to $72,938,431, leaving an expected shortfall of $21,979,033.
Palmer said that the county would use $3,023,262 of appropriated fund balance to bring the levy number down to $18,955,771.
“Our next budget is almost the same as the budget that you had last year,” Palmer said. “The Horace Nye sale and sales tax increases are helping to hold down the budget numbers over the next few years.”
The board has until Dec. 20 to make final changes to the tentative spending plan.