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Services face cuts in 2013 Montgomery County budget

Budget draft trims aid to aging, Cooperative Extension

Wednesday, October 3, 2012
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— Under Montgomery County’s tentative 2013 budget, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Soil and Water Conservation District, and Office for Aging will see drastic cuts.

Treasurer Shawn Bowerman formulated the budget; it projects cutting all county funding of Cornell and the Office for Aging and $37,000 of the Soil and Water budget. The reductions help to close the current $4 million projected funding gap.

Bowerman released the $92 million tentative budget Monday. The Finance Committee has the next 20 days to recommend changes, leaving the full Board of Supervisors two months to debate and vote on those changes. The current document is essentially a foundation.

“I don’t know what will happen with the [Office for Aging] and Cornell,” said Board Chairman Shayne Walters, “but I expect they won’t stay at zero.”

He added that the services Soil and Water Conservation provides to farms and county road crews are too valuable to risk through funding cuts.

“I’ll fight like a dog to get them back in,” he said. “They serve the largest taxpayers in the county.”

Another section of the gap will be filled by $1.3 million of the county’s roughly $5 million fund balance along with an adjustment in sales tax revenue projections.

“[Sales tax] collections so far this year are exceeding our expectations,” Bowerman said. “The adjustment should make it more accurate.”

He expects the county to receive $900,000 more in 2013 than in past years, saying that retail growth in Amsterdam and high gas prices have increased local spending.

“But the question everyone asks,” he said, is “how much are my taxes going to be?’”

The property tax levy is currently set to go up by 2.98 percent, which still falls below the government mandated cap. Exactly what that means for the property owner depends on the location. The owner of a $100,000 house in St. Johnsville for example will pay an extra $430 in taxes in 2013, while the owner of a similar house in Canajoharie will pay $100 less.

Currently there are no plans to cut county jobs, but Walters said that will most likely change during the voting process.

“Some of the supervisors wanted to cut personnel,” Bowerman said, “but the way I see it, that should be a board decision.”

Between now and December 20, outside agencies could retrieve their funding, the tax levy increase could shift in either direction and positions could be cut.

“We’ll have a better understanding of what will happen once the Finance Committee meets,” Walters said, “but I think we’ll be using more of the fund balance.”

 
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