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October 12, 2012

Local officials contend with tax cap

Officials from counties throughout the region say they are grappling with difficult decisions on spending and staffing levels as they seek to craft balanced budgets and keep property tax increases to a minimum.

A month ago, Otsego County officials faced a budget deficit of $5.6 million. But by pressing agency department heads to look for savings, the total gap is now down to about $3 million, county Treasurer Dan Crowell said.

In Delaware County, meanwhile, Board of Supervisors Chairman James Eisel Sr. said he fears the county will have to pass a spending plan that exceeds Albany’s 2 percent tax cap imposed last year. That’s largely because the board wants to give county workers raises after holding their pay flat for the past two years, he said.

While final numbers have yet to be crunched, Eisel, the town supervisor of Harpersfield, said he expects the budget package, once adopted, will require only a modest increase in taxes for Delaware County property owners.

Schoharie County Treasurer William Cherry said property owners in his county will experience a tax increase of 2.8 percent as a result of the county spending plan, which will be made public next week.

“That is still under the New York state tax cap because there are extra mitigating factors, such as retirement costs” that the county is obligated to pay, Cherry said.

Chenango County officials are expected to attempt to adopt a 2013 county budget in late November. County officials have said they are facing escalating pension obligations for employees.

The Chenango Board of Supervisors last month voted to give non-union county employees a 2.5 percent raise.

In Otsego County, Crowell said he expects the county budget for 2013 will comply with the state tax cap even though the tentative spending plan increases the budget for 2013 to about $129 million, versus the $117.3 million package that was adopted for the current fiscal year.

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