COOPERSTOWN — The public will get to sound off Monday evening on Otsego County’s proposed 2014 budget — a plan that calls for $125 million in spending while staying below the state-imposed tax cap of 1.66 percent.
The hearing will begin at 6 p.m. Monday at the Otsego County Courthouse.
Rep. Rich Murphy, D-Oneonta, the vice chairman of the county’s Board of Representatives, predicted the forum will be sparsely attended because the budget calls for no major cuts and no layoffs.
Several board members told The Daily Star that a majority of the board is poised to grant raises to non-union managerial employees. Those workers have gone without a pay increase since 2008, and advocates for the boost said it’s long overdue.
Rep. Don Lindberg, R-Worcester, said he opposes the pay hike, and noted that the only colleagues taking a similar stand are Rep. Kathy Clark, R-Otego, the chairwoman of the board, and Rep Keith McCarty, R-Springfield. Attempts to reach Clark for comment were unsuccessful.
A week before this month’s election, County Treasurer Dan Crowell said he was opposed to salting any raises into the spending plan for the managerial employees.
Lindberg said advocates for the raises will be taking $200,000 that Crowell had budgeted for health insurance benefits to pay for the salary adjustments.
“We should be giving that back to the union people who have to pay 20 percent for their health benefits,” Lindberg said. He also said it remains uncertain whether the county will be successful in 2014 in selling the debt-ridden Otsego Manor nursing home to a private operator.
“I think we should make sure we have the money before we go out and spend it,” Lindberg said.
Murphy said he and other advocates for the raises believe it is unfair to leave the employees classified as management/confidential workers without any salary increases for yet another year.
“We’re not talking about giving them an exorbitant amount of money,” Murphy said.
Rep. Katherine Stuligross, D-Oneonta, who also supports the raises, said the fiscal maneuver to fund the raise amounts to a “budget neutral transfer.”
Asked how future budgets could be impacted by taking a so-called one shot of funds this year to pay for what will become recurring costs in the future, Stuligross said: “The anticipation is we will sell the Manor, and the biggest drain on the budget will be over,”
She said the county spends about $600,000 every month to keep the Manor operating.
A final budget blueprint is expected to be adopted by the board next month.