COOPERSTOWN — An 11th-hour gambit to exceed the state’s two-percent property tax cap was narrowly defeated by Otsego County lawmakers Wednesday. The panel instead enacted a 2013 budget that keeps the increase in the property tax levy to 1.97 percent while calling for $124.5 million in spending.
After nearly two hours of debating the spending plan, the Board of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to enact the plan as packaged by County Treasurer Dan Crowell. Voting against the it were Reps. Pauline Koren, R-Milford, Donald Lindberg, R-Worcester, Keith McCarty, R-Springfield and Betty Anne Schwerd, R-Burlington.
Prior to that vote, Rep. Katherine Stuligross, D-Oneonta, convinced most of her colleagues that the board should consider exceeding the state-imposed tax cap in order to give raises of one percent per year, for the past five years, to agency department heads and others in appointive jobs who have been continually denied pay increases.
However, while Stuligross and seven others voted to open the door to spending more than the tax cap would allow, the six who voted against that idea prevailed because of the system of weighted voting giving greater clout to representatives from districts with higher populations.
Stuligross had proposed increasing the budget by $160,000 — a sum she said would add just $2.60 per $100,000 of assessed property value — in order to fund the salary awards.
“I believe we have accomplished the goals of the tax cap, and it would be appropriate for us to recognize that by cutting staff and other department costs, we have been asking our department heads to work even harder to provide the service necessary within the fiscal restraints we have imposed,” she said.
The vote on her proposal, however, did not deal with the specific suggestion to give raises to managers, but was confined to the question of whether the board would consider exceeding the 2 percent tax cap as it pondered its budget options at a future meeting.