WARRENSBURG -- Friday afternoon, Warren County budget officer Kevin Geraghty had his office door shut, and a paper tape from his adding machine extended from his desk to the floor.
Without question, Geraghty was busy crunching numbers in preparation for some landmark decisions this week.
Final cuts to the controversial 2010 county budget will likely occur Wednesday morning, as county supervisors convene at the municipal center to make decisions under a looming state deadline.
When the supervisors started their budget cutting in Spring, the increase in amount to be raised by taxes for 2010 over 2009 was about $13 million, and it increased over the next few months -- with cutbacks in state reimbursements and revenue shortfalls both in sales tax receipts and from the county trash plant operation, most shortfalls due to the floundering economy.
In the last two days, Geraghty and other county officials have trimmed just more than $2 million of an anticipated $6 million shortfall.
The latest reductions, taken late last week, include savings of $300,000 in how the county Social Services Dept. administers the federal food stamp program, $140,000 in health insurance savings, using a one-time Medicaid reimbursement stipend of $1.5 million and cutting an additional $115,550 from equipment, supplies, fuel and miscellaneous costs throughout the county departments.
As of Friday afternoon, the budget shortfall stood at $3,946,000, which would represent a 10.9 percent increase in county taxes for 2010.
Recent budget cuts included a vote by county supervisors last Tuesday not to fill two jail guard positions, which may prompt the state to de-certify the county jail from accepting boarders from other counties according to Sheriff Bud York. Such a move could cost Warren County hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue -- including a planned $210,000 increase for 2010 in boarding receipts, he has warned.
Officials of the state Commission of Correction, which has the certification powers, are scheduled to be visiting the county jail on Wednesday.
Budget cuts to the county Sheriff's Department have been a recent focus of county supervisors, as the agency includes the largest non-mandated expense shouldered by taxpayers: the sheriff's road patrol.
Discussions of cutting the patrol staffing have prompted controversy, with supervisors representing the City of Glens Falls or Queensbury generally arguing to cut the patrol, while those supervisors representing the rural northern towns argue to retain the patrol staffing -- police presence in the small towns is vital to public safety, they say.
A total of $30,000 has been cut to the sheriff's department annual overtime costs of about $500,000 in the latest budget trimming.
Deeper cuts to this expense could be made if organizers to special events -- like Americade and the Adirondack Nationals Car Show -- pay for their own crowd control. Both of these two are held annually in Lake George.
Much of the officers' overtime costs go toward weekend duties at large events as well as police escorts for parades.
Tuesday, the supervisors approved an extension of early retirement incentives for sheriff's officers. Whether this offer will end up in a reduced staff isn't clear -- county officials earlier this year assumed six officers would take the incentive and retire early, but only three have done so.
One big element of the county's tax increase has been the 3 percent wage increases for many of the county workers, agreed upon before the county's financial troubles erupted.
To date, the union officials have refused to renegotiate the contracts, and county officials have instead cut 50 or so jobs.
The county budget meeting, we hear, is set for 9 a.m. on Wednesday Nov. 18, but it is not listed so on the county's website.