ELIZABETHTOWN - The Essex County Board of Supervisors officially adopted its 2010 budget Dec. 7, but not without plenty of late discussion about ways to cut spending.
The board began with a proposed tentative budget that included $93.2 million in appropriations; a $2.9 million decrease compared to the 2009 budget.
Revenues for the county are estimated to decrease by $3.7 million, however. Un-amended, the budget would have amounted to a 5 percent increase in the tax levy.
Supervisors held a budget workshop Nov. 25 to propose additional cuts. It resulted in a plan that would have increased the tax levy by 2.1 percent.
One of the proposals from the workshop was to save $159,200 by limiting management raises to 2 percent instead of the 4.25 percent raise originally slated.
But when supervisors met to amend and approve the budget, the trimmed raises for management-confidential employees were ultimately turned down.
Moriah Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava, who serves as the board's budget liaison officer, explained that he had reached a compromise with county Manager Dan Palmer that would allow the 4.25 percent raises to remain in place so long as the county initiated a conservative three-to-five year raise schedule for management-confidential employees and took a critical look at their salaries.
"Although I am not in favor of the 4.25 increases across the board, at least I am satisfied that we have reached a compromise to look at each salary individually," Scozzafava said.
Still, not everyone on the board shared the same satisfaction. Keene Supervisor Bill Ferebee moved to include the raise-reduction anyway.
"It's very difficult to support the 4.25 for everyone," said Ferebee. "I couldn't support that in my own town, and I feel the 2 percent is satisfactory."
Ferebee's proposal ultimately failed, however, as it failed to garner enough support to even be allowed on the floor for discussion.
The board did, however, vote for several other cuts proposed from the Nov. 25 workshop. They included $204,300 for county Enhanced 911 software and three-dimensional aerial photography upgrades and diverting an additional $30,000 from the county's STOP DWI fund to pay for a new car for the Sheriff's Department.
At the recommendation of Palmer, $100,000 was removed for a water meter and storage building at the public safety facility in Lewis.
Scozzafava urged the board to freeze supervisors' salaries at their 2009 levels. The amendment passed, resulting in a savings of roughly $14,000.
The cuts brought appropriations down to $92.9 million, which will result in a 2.3 percent increase in the tax levy to $13.5 million.
Ferebee and Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston voted against the budget, which passed 15-2. Newcomb Supervisor George Canon was absent.