October 31, 2014

Cortland Co. Legislature OKs budget




Staff Reporter

Cortland County legislators adopted the proposed $126 million 2015 budget during a special meeting Thursday night, a fiscal plan that shoulders residents with a $33.6 million tax levy,1.7 percent more than this year’s levy.
Legislator Jim Denkenberger (R-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton) cast the sole opposing vote and Legislators Raylynn Knolls (D-LD7) and Newell Wilcox (R-Homer) were absent.
Legislator Kevin Whitney (R-Cortlandville) made a motion during the special meeting to amend the budget, removing a part-time delinquent taxreceiver from the treasurer’s office.
A delinquent tax receiver accounts for all the money paid to the treasurer’s office for taxes and related county assessments according to information from the Cortland County website.
Whitney said he met with Cynthia Monroe, county treasurer, along with Randy Deal, assistant budget officer on Oct. 14 and it was determined that the position be removed because the work level did not match the need for that position.
Whitney said Monroe felt the office was performing its duties well and the elimination of this position would not increase any workload on other employees.
Monroe said this morning the person was being laid off but would have first opportunity for the job if the position was reinstated next year.
Removing this position gave legislators more cash to work with, lessening the amount to be raised by taxes by $18,264, which is the salary and fringe benefits of that position. The original tax levy was $33,571,354.
Whitney said after the meeting that the employee was notified ahead of time that the Legislature may remove the position.
Deal explained during the meeting that the 2015 tax levy is a 1.7 percent increase from the 2014 tax levy.
This is within the state mandated 2 percent tax cap, which for Cortland County came out to $33,616,090.
Deal said the budget reflects what the county needs.
No legislators complained about the 2015 budget numbers, but Denkenberger opposed the budget because of onerous state mandates.
Denkenberger said after the meeting he opposed the budget because he does not like to vote on demands of the state.
“The bulk of the state mandates is two thirds of the budget,” he said after the meeting Thursday night. “That’s not a request, that’s a demand ... don’t ask me to vote for demands.”
Denkenberger said it is a burden on legislators to face the taxpayers who question why the county approves programs, especially social service programs.
“If they increase state income tax to pay for these social programs, which are mainly the stepchild of downstate people, they would have to pay for the bulk of those,” Denkenberger said.
Denkenberger said this morning he does not want to pick out a particular program that could be eliminated but there should be a committee or group to evaluate which ones are really needed in the county.
In a special Budget and Finance Committee meeting Monday night, Denkenberger opposed a motion to transfer money to the Department of Social Services because he said counties have no choice on the matter.
Legislature Chair Susan Briggs (R-Cortlandville) said after the meeting she is proud of the budget the Legislature adopted, especially since it came before election Day on Nov. 4, one of her stated goals since the beginning of her term.
“It was never a contest to get it done before Election Day, but a desire to be transparent to the public that we serve before going to the polls,” she said outside her office Thursday night. “We accomplished that and I’m so proud of it.”
Briggs said she appreciated all the hard work done by the budget team and Tompkins County Administrator Joe Mareane, who helped the county get through budget preparations after previous County Administrator Martin Murphy left the county for a job in Oneonta during budget preparation.
“This experience, although very inconvenient, has made us better legislators,” she said. “We were more informed and were able to do our jobs being out of this position and I think we excelled at it.”
Now that the budget is adopted, Briggs said hiring a new county administrator is a priority so she hopes the Legislature can start that process soon.

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