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Local News

October 31, 2013

Treasurer: Budget plan has slim tax hike|

COOPERSTOWN — Otsego County’s proposed 2014 budget calls for a property tax increase of less than 1 percent, an achievement made possible by the postponement of expensive purchases and other belt-tightening measures, county Treasurer Dan Crowell said Wednesday.

While the budget proposal holds the line on spending, Crowell said it calls for no layoffs of county employees.

The spending plan, which still needs to be reviewed by the full 14-member Board of Representatives, would also provide no wage increases to the county’s pool of managerial employees, who have gone without raises for the past six years.

Crowell said the county’s financial position, which has been strained by the growing subsidy for the Otsego Manor nursing home, has been strengthened by a slight increase in sales tax revenue. He said sales tax collections are running at about 2.3 percent greater than one year ago.

“Our sales tax numbers haven’t been phenomenal but they’re getting stronger,” Crowell told The Daily Star after briefing members of the county board’s budget-review committee.

He also noted that the county’s pension obligations, which have risen sharply in recent years and are linked to the state pension fund’s performance on the stock market, are now increasingly less dramatically.

The county’s contribution to the Medicaid program has also leveled off because of a state-imposed cap, he pointed out.

“We’re in a very strong financial position right now as far as our fund balance,” said Crowell, noting that about $2.5 million from that fund balance would go to plug the budget hole.

That leaves the fund balance, which is needed to deal with unexpected calamities and other contingencies, with about $12 million, or about 16.7 percent of the $77.8 million called for in general fund appropriations, he added.

The Board of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the budget Dec. 4. A public hearing on the spending plan is tentatively scheduled to take place Nov. 25 in Cooperstown.

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