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County budget leans heavy on reserve funds

Madison County chair says state tax cap is ‘unsustainable’

The Madison County Board of Supervisors met on Nov. 29 for the public hearing on the 2012 budget.

The Madison County Board of Supervisors met on Nov. 29 for the public hearing on the 2012 budget. Andrew Casler

— For the 2012 budget year, New York state has ordered counties to do more with less.

Counties have seen an increase in responsibility for mandate funding, despite a limit on increasing taxes.

With counties across New York passing their budgets, many are over-utilizing dwindling reserve funds to meet the state-mandated 2 percent property tax cap.

Madison County is no exception to this trend.

The tax cap blocks most New York State municipalities from increasing property taxes by more than two percent each year. The law is scheduled to expire in June 2016, but can be extended.

By the numbers

Madison County’s tentative budget would raise property taxes by 1.99 percent or 4 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. This means that taxes would increase by $5 for the median-valued home in Madison County, worth $125,000.

The average property in the town of Cazenovia, worth $173,000, would see a $6.92 increase in property taxes.

According to Chairman of the Madison County Board of Supervisors John Becker, the county’s tentative budget does not exceed the tax cap because it significantly leans on surplus funds.

The county has allocated $6.67 million of surplus funds to continue state mandated programs and local services without exceeding the tax cap.

Before earmarking reserve money for the budget, county supervisors eliminated 54 jobs and sold the county home healthcare service. They are also considering selling the county mental health department.

The county chairman, who is a Republican, estimates that reserve funds will run out in four years if the tax cap continues without additional state mandate relief.

“We can’t maintain local services if there is no state mandate relief,” Becker said: “In four years we’ll be out of reserve money. In five years, we’ll only be [able to pay] for state pension and Medicaid with the tax levy. We’ll have no money for highways, sheriffs and not-for-profits.”

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