Dede Scozzafava speaks to members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors.
Members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors got their chance to weigh in on the proposed budget of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Jan. 29.
As part of a series of informational forums held after Cuomo’s annual budget address, Deputy Secretary of State Dede Scozzafava was on hand at the Old County Courthouse in Elizabethtown to hear both praise and concern from government officials and the public.
“We work very hard to ensure that the conditions and needs in the North Country do make their way back to the governor,” Scozzafava said. “This governor has been very committed to the North Country and to seeing things change. One of the most important things that the governor had to do was make the state fiscally feasible. What the governor has been able to do in the last three years is really amazing.”
Several supervisors focused their critiques on the proposed property tax freeze, which would allow taxpayers to continue to pay taxes at their previous rate give the municipality where they lived stayed under the tax levy cap and worked to reduce spending through shared services of consolidation.
“We have shared services with the town of Black Brook for 30 years and in the new proposal could that could have a detrimental effect to us,” Jay Supervisor and board chairman Randy Douglas said. “We have been at zero percent budget increase in seven of the last ten years at the county. We used fund balance and in hindsight we wish we would not have. If we had increased two percent over those years we would not be in the mess we are now. We were already trying to do what he wants. We have done our due diligence over the past 10 years and now the pressure is going to be on us over the next three years and I do not think we can meet the cap in Essex County.”
“We have a neighboring county that has a tax rate near $7 that meets the cap and ours is two and a half times less and we cannot meet the cap,” County Manager Dan Palmer said. “Because we held the tax rate to its lowest possible level over the last 10 years we are now being penalized for it. Counties with $12 tax rates are treated better then us and we are in the bottom of virtually every county in all of the categories the governor has pointed out but we are the ones that are beaten up because we cannot make the tax cap and we are going to miss out on this freeze.”
“We in the state have to try to assist you in looking at different ways and different plans and we are committed to doing that,” Scozzafava responded.
Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said he was frustrated over the fact that his town had already worked with other municipalities to save money, none of which would be looked at by the state.
“I do not think we are going to get any credit for things that we have been doing throughout the years already,” he said. “It’s too bad because you do have communities out there, especially in the North Country that have been doing this for a number of years, we have exhausted our options and now there is a carrot at the end of the stick and we are not going to get the carrot. This also holds true to the county of Essex to the tune of millions of dollars in services that the county shares with he towns.”
“Let’s not say that you are not going to get the carrot,” Dede Scozzafava said. “Let us come in and help you look at what you have done and then find more ways to help you save costs.”
Ticonderoga Supervisor Bill Grinnell said he felt the state needed to do more to help the region.
“Now that the governor has discovered that we are New York’s playground, I would like to ask that he and the rest of the state start to pay for it,” he said. “You have state campgrounds that are assessed at twenty percent of what the residential properties are assessed at. If the state wants to have a state park, then the state has to pay for it, not just the people of the Adirondacks.”
“I think this governor really knows this area and he knows that there are people who live here,” Dede Scozzafava said. “What he sees is tourism and people coming to this area which will help your communities as well. This governor is committed to the economy of this region and not just as a playground. The tools are in place to make sure that the region develops in ether way that you want it to.”
Other topics included funding for volunteer fire departments, allowing counties to increase their occupancy tax rates, having school districts take the lead on preschool services, tight town budgeting and the recent rate hike in power bills.