Legislators pass 2013 budget with zero tax levy increase

Legislatorsby Carol Thompson

A few last minute adjustments to the 2013 draft budget, including the use of almost $1 million in retirement reserves, resulted in the Oswego County Legislature’s passage of a budget with no increase in the tax levy.

In a bipartisan manner, the Republicans and Democrats alternated the offering of cuts until the goal of no tax levy increase was reached. “It took a concerted effort by both sides of the aisle to get to a zero tax increase,” Legislature Chairman Fred Beardsley said. “There was cooperation like I’ve never seen before.”

The meeting was unlike budget meetings of the past. Traditionally, the Republicans and Democrats spar for hours over cuts. This year, the meeting took approximately 90 minutes with several recesses called to allow the two sides to come together to discuss cuts.

Spending will remain at about $193 million, the tax levy will be unchanged at $42,664,531, and the generic tax rate is $7.095 per $1,000 assessed property value or only slightly higher, depending on property assessments, Beardsley said.

The generic tax rate increase of 2.1 percent will result in either an increase or decrease in property taxes, depending on the individual town and city equalization rate. The tax levy came in under the state mandated two-percent tax cap.

All totaled, legislators borrowed approximately $5.9 million from reserve funds and increased the sales tax revenue line by $2 million, something County Treasurer John Kruk cautioned legislators may not happen.

Kruk said the county has never collected the projected amount in sales tax and for that reason, legislators should monitor the revenue monthly.

The legislature agreed to cut travel expenses and a nurse position was eliminated from the sheriff’s department. The legislators unanimously approved the restoration of funding for Air One that had been removed at the committee level.

The cooperation on the floor was attributed to Beardsley’s willingness to work with the Democrat caucus, Minority Leader Mike Kunzwiler said. That included meetings with Beardsley in the day prior to the meeting.

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