County legislators adopt budget for 2014

By Debra J. Groom

The Oswego County Legislature adopted the 2014 county budget Thursday night by a vote of 17 to 8.

Three Republican legislators joined the five Democrats in voting against the spending plan.

Those voting ‘no’ were Michael Kunzwiler, Amy Tresidder and Jacob Mulcahey, Democrats from Oswego; Douglas Malone, D-Oswego Town; Daniel Farfaglia, D-Fulton; Margaret Kastler, R-Lacona; Shawn Doyle, R-Pulaski; and Daniel Chalifoux, R-Minetto.

The legislature also approved amendments totaling about $177,000 before adopting the final budget. The final budget totals about $197 million.

The tax levy — the amount to be raised by taxes — increased $17,894 with the amendments. The tax rate will be $7.19 per $1,000 of assessed value, compared to $7.10 per $1,000 in 2013.

One of the items included in the budget amendments was the new contract between the county and the Oswego County Deputies’ Association.

The contract added about $124,000 to the budget. The deputies’ contract covers 62 full time and 23 part time deputies.

The legislature approved the contract  retroactive to 2012. It covers years 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Deputies received no raises for 2012, 2 percent increase for 2013 and 2 percent increase for 2014. The old contract expired Dec. 31, 2011.

During discussion on the budget prior to the vote, Malone tried to get an amendment to the budget passed to not fill any positions currently open. But the measure failed, with only Malone, Kunzwiler and Farfaglia supporting it.

Kunzwiler, who is the minority leader, said he was going to oppose the budget because he doesn’t believe there was enough input from the Democrats in putting together a final budget. He also chastised the way the budget is written as a whole.

“I hope we can start (on the next budget) on Jan. 1,” he said. “We should do a study from day one. I have grave concerns on our reserves and where we’re going in the future. I think a lot more could be done when it comes to dialog.”

The new budget also includes $26,000 for a pilot project brought to them by District Attorney Gregory Oakes. Oakes proposed spending the money to hire an outside lawyer to handle all of the county’s appeals of felony convictions.

He told the legislators currently, one of the assistant district attorneys in the county DA’s office handles the appeals.

Oakes said if this lawyer instead spends all her time on prosecuting felony cases in county court, cases will be able to move through the system at a quicker pace, alleviating the amount of time defendants are spending in the county jail.

Oakes said this could lead to fewer people in the county jail at any one time.

Sheriff Reuel Todd has had problems for the last two years with overcrowding and has had to send inmates to other jails at $90 a day per inmates and transportation and overtime charges for the deputies taking the inmates to other jails. One year, this amounted to about $1 million.

Oakes said he wants to try the program this year and if it doesn’t save money, it will not be renewed for next year. Legislators approved the request.

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