The Cortland County Legislature adopted a $142.8 million 2020 budget that would take $1.8 million, almost $1.9 million out of the general fund to keep the tax levy within the state-mandated cap on tax levy increases.
“It’s maybe not the best budget we could’ve come up with but I don’t know what else we could have done,” said Legislator Sandra Price (D-Harford, Virgil).
The legislature voted 14-3 to pass the budget. Legislators Beau Harbin (D-Cortland), Ron VanDee (D-Cortland) and Donnell Boyden (R-Homer, Scott, Preble) voted no.
That was after legislators voted 13-4 to amend the 2020 tentative budget to remove around $52,000 after deciding no to reclassify several positions. Legislator Michael Barylski (D-Cortlandville), Cathy Bischoff (D-Cortland), Harbin and Boyden voted against taking out the funds.
The tentative budget called for increasing spending 6.4% to $142.8 million in 2020 from $134.3 million in 2019. It was also recommended that the property taxes be raised 7% to $37.9 million from $35.4 million. The adopted 2020 budget would only raise taxes 2.1% to $15.69 from $15.37 in 2019.
The legislature also voted 13-4 against Barylski’s amendment to add $54,000 back into the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation Districts budget. Legislators Chris Newell (R-Cortlandville), Doug Bentley (D-Cortland), Boyden and Barylski voted yes.
Around eight people spoke during privilege of the floor urging the legislature to add back funding for the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District.
“Many of you may not realize all the work that this agency does to benefit farmers, homeowners and municipalities,” said Mike McMahon, an owner of E-Z Acres farm in Scott and Homer. “Amanda (Barber) and her staff bring in hundreds and thousands of dollars in grants each year to fund better management practices to protect our environment, especially our water quality while conserving our soils.”
Farmer Kathy Arnold said the district is “a vital agency for keeping our water pure and soil intact.”
VanDee was just one of several legislator to speak about why he wouldn’t support adding the funding back.
“Look at what we’ve done to the office of the aging, the senior centers that are closing partly, the veterans officer,” Van Dee said. “I don’t know Mike have you ever been down to the treasurer’s office and seen how many people are coming in for tax agreements because they can’t afford to pay the taxes?”
Other legislators including Paul Heider (R-Cuyler, Solon Truxton) and Bischoff said they couldn’t vote to add back funding for the conservation district but they would take a hard look next year at would could be done to help it.