Essex County Budget Officer Thomas “Tom” Scozzafava said everyone should be ready for a budget that fits within the parameters of the state’s 2 percent tax cap.
“We are going to present a budget with the 2 percent cap in place, so buckle your seatbelts,” said Scozzafava, who is also the town of Moriah supervisor. “The services that we have a whole lot of control over are the ones that are going to have to go. The mandate things that we do not have control over are going to have to stay. There is going to be a lot of pain with this budget and a lot of tough decisions.”
During the Oct. 17 Finance Committee, meeting, members also discussed the need for a budget committee, which would look at the budget before revue by the full board.
“I always considered the full board to be the committee, but the law says that the committee should be created,” County Manager Daniel Palmer said. “The thing is, if you have the full board as the committee, then have already acted on whatever the committee approves, in a sense.”
“I would feel that the full board should be part of this committee,” Scozzafava said.
“You should not have the full board as a committee that then reports back to the full board,” County Attorney Daniel Manning said.
Willsboro Supervisor Edward “Ed” Hatch said that he felt it was vital to let the constituents know what portion of their taxes was going toward state-mandated programs and how little that left for other, non-mandated and non-funded programs.
“I think that we really need to tell the people what the costs for these things are and then ask them what they want us to do,” Hatch said.
Talk also turned to the 2 percent tax cap, with Palmer saying that the stipulation did not benefit a county like Essex, that had kept its tax rates low.
“You have a budget with a $3 tax rate and a county budget with a $13 tax rate, you tell me which one is a train wreck,” Palmer said. “This tax cap was put in place with no regard to what the tax rate is.”
Scozzafava said that, either way, his intention was to have a budget that was in-line with the state mandate.
“It’s our intention to put together a budget that is at the 2 percent tax levy cap and you are going to see what is eliminated in this budget for 2012,” Scozzafava said. “We are all going to have a pet project that is going to be gone.”