OSWEGO, NY Ã¢â‚¬â€œ The Oswego County Legislature voted Tuesday night in favor of the 2010 budget Ã¢â‚¬â€œ but not closing the Hannibal Transfer Station.
The countyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s $185,334,375 budget for 2010 doesn’t increase taxes and includes no raises for the legislators.
The tax rate will be $7.16 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
A motion to return performance incentives for department heads for 2010 was defeated. They will, however receive their 3 percent raises.
This issue was marked by a lengthy debate in which some legislators said they had to make the cuts for the taxpayers. Others said they negotiated the deal in good faith with the department heads and should keep their word.
Legislator Jack Proud asked his colleagues how other bargaining units will look at the legislators in the future if (legislators) negotiate in good faith only to go back on their word when something becomes inconvenient.
At the public hearing prior to the meeting, nearly a dozen residents spoke on various budget topics including funding for libraries, a new position for the DA’s Office and the transfer station.
District Attorney Donald Dodd pointed out that violent crimes are up in Oswego County and the position would help his office more efficiently handle the casework.
It would increase the taxes, he admitted Ã¢â‚¬â€œ roughly a penny a month for the average homeowner, he added.
He encouraged the legislators to make a motion, second it and debate and approve the position.
However, during the nearly two-hour budget debate that ensued, legislators never acted on the DA’s request.
A couple of amendments were proposed that would have cut slightly less than $600,000 from next year’s spending plan.
Legislator Art Gearsbeck sought to slice $200,000 in overtime out of the Solid Waste Department and $300,000 in overtime from the Highway Department.
The full legislature voted down both suggestions.
Only five legislators are using the county health insurance plan.
Legislator Mike Kunzwiler suggested eliminating health insurance for legislators; a measure that would decrease the budget by about $71,000.
He then sought to remove $20,000 from the $40,000 the IDA will use next year to profile (research to see if it is suitable for economic development) properties in the county in 2010
Both ideas were voted down.
“To say we can’t do better on this budget just blows my mind. If you can’t cut $20,000 now, what will you do when you have to cut a million?” he asked the other legislators.
Debate on the budget wound its way into a discussion regarding the closing of the transfer station.
In what some legislators said is a “business decision,” they were considering closing the transfer station; a move that would save the county more than $197,000 a year.
Legislator Doug Malone proposed a compromise resolution. He suggested keeping the transfer station open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and a half day on Saturdays.
Frank Visser, head of the county’s Solid Waste Department, “really wouldn’t be saving (any money).”
The resolution was defeated.
Legislator Shawn Doyle pointed out the county will be facing tough economic challenges in the next couple of years and needs to start making cuts to save money.
“I’m very sorry, Jack,” he said to Hannibal Legislator Jack Beckwith. “We have to start somewhere.”
He made a motion to close the station. It was seconded by Legislator Shawn Walker.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I would never vote to close this transfer station,Ã¢â‚¬Â Beckwith said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“If you want to vote to close them all, I would support it. But,Ã‚Â I would never close a transfer station on the other end of the county.Ã‚Â I am supposed to protect all of the people in this county, not just my people. I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t turn my back on your people, donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t turn your back on mine.Ã¢â‚¬Â
When the role call vote was taken, the tally was 10 in favor, 13 opposed and two absent.