County legislature meets Thursday March 13

By Debra J. Groom

The Oswego County Legislature will decide on a number of resolutions at its Thursday March 13 meeting that officials hope will save the county money.

One deals with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tax freeze proposal. The legislators will vote on supporting an alternative to the governor’s plan — namely having the state take over paying for the mandated programs it tells counties they must provide.

County Administrator Philip Church told the legislators last month that Cuomo’s plan would save Oswego County taxpayers with an avaerage home valued at $94,500 a little less than $74. This would be a two-year rebate, Church said.

But he said if the state instituted permanent mandate relief, paying for programs such as Medicaid, indigent defense, presschool special education and others, the reductions to the average Oswego County taxpayer’s bill would be about $514.

And these would be permanent reductions — not just a two-year fix.

In his 2014-15 state budget presentation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will provide $1 billion for property tax relief.

Church said this would help taxpayers by reducing their property tax burden permanently.

“Many counties and the New York State Association of Counties are proposing this alternative method to provide property tax reductions to New Yorkers,” Church wrote in his analysis.

Also on Thursday, the legislature will vote on supporting a statewide indigent defense legal system. Church said if the state picked up the cost of paying for poor defendants needing lawyers, the county would save about $1.55 million, which amounts to about $24 for the average resident.

This issue is hot in the state right now due to a lawsuit called Hurrell-Harring et al vs. the State of New York. In that suit, defendants in a numbr of counties, including Onondaga, say they were not represented in court by lawyers at various parts of the legal process because the county did not provide the required lawyer.

The lawsuit contends some counties do not have the money to send lawyers to every court hearing, such as an arraignment, but the law requires defendants have legal representation in court at all times.

The state mandated the indigent defense legal system, but passed it on to the counties to run and fund.

Also on the agenda for Thursday:

** Approving a new lease with Operation Oswego County for the county’s Board of Elections offices on East Seneca Street. The lease would be for two years for 10,156 square feet of space at an annual cost of $31,900.

** A public hearing for some land being added into the agricultural district in Oswego County. The additions include about 80 acres in Scriba, 2 3/4 acres in New Haven and a little more than 150 acres in Amboy. The legislature also will vote on including these parcels in the ag district during the regular meeting.

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