OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego County Legislature, after some lengthy debates, approved the 2015 spending plan.
The legislators whittled some more off the tentative $54,479, 777 budget before it was passed 17-7-1 along party lines. The legislature’s seven Democrats were in opposition and Legislator John Martino was excused.
A motion by Legislator Frank Castiglia to eliminate the benefits legislators receive (mileage, travel and insurance benefits) failed. A motion by Legislator Doug Malone to eliminate all unfilled county positions also failed. Both votes were primarily along party lines.
The tentative tax levy was lowered to $53.8 million, and the increase dipped to 1.15 percent.
The generic average tax rate fell from $7.59 per thousand of assessed value to $7.49.
However, “It’s a very fragile budget,” according to Legislator Mike Kunzwiler, minority leader.
We have the unknowns of the nuke plant agreement. I did check with some people on the sales tax; we still have the fourth quarter to go and with the gas prices where they are now, things are kind of iffy. That’s why I made the comment that there are too many variables,” he told Oswego County Today following the meeting. “These are projections, these are projected revenues – it’s not money in hand.”
The legislature shouldn’t be making “best guesses,” he said. “If you could make a hard cut, that’s what we were looking for.”
It’s similar to where things were back before the first Payment In Lieu Of Taxes agreement, and then, when the unknowns hit “we ended up 72 percent in the hole,” he added.
Legislature Chairman Kevin Gardner praised the hard work on the budget done by the department heads and legislators. It’s been about 10 years since the county has had to increase taxes, he noted.
“I want to thank both caucuses for their work on the budget,” he said. “It wasn’t easy on either side of the aisle.”
He also cautioned against using the county’s reserves to close future budget gaps and encouraged his fellow legislators to start making plans.
“It’s a difficult decision but when you see your general fund go down and down … we’ve got to stop that,” he said.
Three people took advantage of the chance to speak at the public hearing on the budget. Among their concerns were the transfer stations and support for county libraries.