County taxes up 20 percent for some


By David Avitabile

Schoharie County residents will be paying about five percent more in property taxes next year according to the first draft of the 2010 Schoharie County budget.
Budget officers Paul Brady and Alicia Terry released the first draft of a $72 million spending plan that would increase the tax levy by 6.9 percent but raise the average tax rate by five percent.
(For Treasurer and former budget officer Bill Cherry’s reaction to the proposed budget, see related story.)
Because of different equalization rates in the 16 towns in the county, the tax rate increases would vary widely. There would be decreases in three towns but double-digit increases in three others.
The tentative budget, which will now go to the county board’s Finance Committee, shows tax rate decreases in Esperance, Schoharie and Wright but increases of more than 10 percent in Conesville, Gilboa and Jefferson.
The increase in Conesville could be 21.99 percent, the hike in Gilboa is estimated at 10.61 percent and the increase in Jefferson could be 13.06 percent.
There will be a public hearing on the budget on Tuesday, November 10 at 10am, in the supervisors’ chambers on the third floor of the county building in Schoharie.
Facing declining sales tax revenue, increasing costs for health insurance, and state retirement, it was a very difficult budget to put together, Mr. Brady said.
As Commissioner of the Social Services department, Mr. Brady said he is used to putting together budget but the learning curve for the county budget “was almost vertical.”
The largest obstacle has been the declining sales tax revenue.
The amount budgeted for sales tax revenue is $12.5 million in the 2010 budget compared to $13.8 million that was estimated for 2009, Mr. Brady said.
Though there is still a quarter of the year left, he said he expects the county to bring in about $12.5 million this year.
Without a quick turnaround in sight, the sales tax revenue was estimated at the same $12.5 million for next year.
“We wanted to be as realistic as possible,” Mr. Brady said Friday morning.
To make up for the sales tax shortfall, county supervisors enacted a hiring moratorium in June and then established a hiring ceiling in September. That ceiling is maintained in the budget, Mr. Brady said, which leaves 22 full-time and 11 part-time positions vacant.
That action alone will save the county $1.1 million next year.
Limiting purchases and overnight travel will save another $100,000 in 2010, Mr. Brady said.
Department heads were asked to hold down spending and they did a good job and Mr. Brady said he expects the spending amount to go down after it is reviewed by the finance committee.
There are no raises budgeted for elected officials, Mr. Brady said, department heads or management confidential employees and funding for outside the county government agencies such as the animal shelter, Cooperative Extension and Soil and Water, have been cut by two percent.
Spending in the general fund is down by $380,000 in the new budget but three areas of spending hike are the county’s contribution to the state retirement fund, health insurance and a possible fine because the county will not meet its guaranteed annual garbage tonnage to the MOSA, the solid waste management authority.
The retirement contribution will climb by about $700,000 to $1.8 million, he said, but the county has to be prepared for an increase to $2.2 million in 2011.
Health insurance is up from about $4.9 million to over $5.1 million.
The county could be fined $318,000 for their garbage shortfall to MOSA, Mr. Brady said.
According to the tentative budget, proposed tax rates are:
• Blenheim: $11.01 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, up 5.03 percent.
• Broome: $11.34 per $1,000, up 5.06 percent.
• Carlisle: $11.37, up 7.82 percent.
• Cobleskill: $11.58, up eight percent.
• Conesville: $14.72, up 21.99 percent.
• Esperance: $10.29, down 2.56 percent.
• Fulton: $14.01, up 6.84 percent.
• Gilboa: $432.19, up 10.61 percent.
• Jefferson: $15.63, up 13.06 percent.
• Middleburgh: $12.65, up 1.89 percent.
• Richmondville: $8.54, up 7.23 percent.
• Schoharie: $10.97, down 2.56 percent.
• Seward: $11.38, up 7.84 percent.
• Sharon: $11.32, up 7.86 percent.
• Summit: $15.82, up 6.03 percent.
• Wright: $10.89, down 2.5 percent.