Lake Placid chef Dave Hunt talks to the Essex County Board of Supervisors in support of the Adirondack Harvest program as board chairman Randall Douglas and County Manager Daniel Palmer look at a handout he provided during last year's budget hearing.
The Essex County Board of Supervisors voted on a 2012 budget that eliminates 10 positions while raising the tax levy 10.54 percent.
The board met for almost four hours Monday, Dec. 12, where they passed a budget after several attempts to restore the positions that were eliminated.
“In my 20-plus years here, this has been by far the most difficult budget process,” Moriah Supervisor and budget liaison Thomas “Tom” Scozzafava said. “I have never been through a process where you take a vote on a budget then re-vote to go back and look at each detail.”
Board Chairman Randall “Randy” Douglas said that he felt the board worked hard on the budget, even though he disagreed with the final numbers.
“My colleagues put the time and the effort into this budget and represented their towns well,” Douglas said. “I disagree with this budget because I wanted to get in under the cap, but I do feel that it is now time for the state to come through with serious mandate relief.”
“I don’t know if we are a whole lot different now than we were last year,” County Manager and Budget Officer Daniel Palmer said. “I am not sure that we will not be looking at the same thing next year, but we will deal with that when next year comes.”
The 2012 Essex County budget calls for $16,276,443 to be raised by taxes, a 10.54 percent increase from 2011. The tax rate is expected to jump from $2.13 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2011 to $2.44, an increase of 31 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
That means a homeowner with a home assessed at $100,000 will pay and additional $31 in taxes, while a homeowner with a home at the county average $156,000 would pay an additional $48.36 in taxes.
The biggest sticking point to the budget discussions was the elimination of 10 positions that would call for layoffs out of 20.6 total job cuts.
“I do not believe that we are in a dire situation that we should have to put people out on the street,” Elizabethtown Supervisor Noel Merrihew said. “We have a tax rate here that we can be proud of, no matter what people say.”
“I cannot support any increases when we are laying off employees and restoring funds to contract agencies,” Scozzafava said about the reinstatement of all contract agency funding with a 10 percent decrease (the library system only received a five-percent decrease).
Some supervisors tried several different approaches to get the jobs put back into the budget, with each measure being defeated by a full board vote.
“No matter what we do, we are going to be wrong in someone’s eyes,” Westport Supervisor Daniel Connell said. “But we have to do something, one way or another.”
Some supervisors were upset with the repeated attempts to get the jobs placed back in the budget.
“We have beat this to death,” Willsboro Supervisor Edward “Ed” Hatch. “We have decided how much will be cut an we should stay with that.”