OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego County tax levy increase for 2013 … is zero.
Fred Beardsley, chair of the Oswego County Legislature made that pronouncement at the end of a nearly 90-minute session Thursday night.
“This was done with us starting out with a $5 million hole. I am very happy to say that working through this budget this has been accomplished by the whole legislature,” the chairman said. “It couldn’t have happened without both sides of the aisle working together. This budget could not have been achieved if it wasn’t for the cooperation that went on in this legislature.”
Legislator Dan Chalifoux thanked the department heads for the hard work they put in on their budgets.
“I’d like to thank them for their cooperation,” he said.
Legislator Jack Proud added he wanted to thank the county administrator (Phil Church) and his staff, “for the role they played, keeping things aligned and understanding where we were in the process and where we had to go. That was invaluable.”
Both comments were followed by hearty applause from the legislature.
Leading up to the final vote legislators Mike Kunzwiler and Proud (the minority and majority leaders, respectively) took turns offering and seconding resolutions that for the most part, reduced the budget.
Funding for travel was cut and a nurse’s position was taken out among other reductions.
“Basically, they took out more than $1 million,” Church said.
Some funds were added to the budget to pay for Air One services in this county, which legislators agreed was a vital life-saving program. And, the disability health line was increased.
The economic problems aren’t going away, Kunzwiler cautioned his peers.
“This isn’t going away. Until we get our state representatives and governor to understand the ramifications (of state mandates). Next year isn’t going to be easier for this legislature starting January 1,” he said. “We’ve got a lot more work to do. We really have to start putting pressure on the state, both sides of the aisle, to start changing the way they deal with the county. You see every year; it’s more and more difficult for counties to keep these rising costs under control.”
Chairman Beardsley agreed. Adding that if the county didn’t continue to scrutinize everything, “at the end of 2013, we’ll be in worse trouble than we are now,” he said.
The county will have to work, on a day-by-day basis, that they keep existing costs in check. “Until the state stops passing costs on to us (the problem) is not going to go away,” he added.
Some counties are in much worse shape than Oswego, Church noted. In some places, that have deeply slashed services and programs, he said.
The tax levy remains about the same at $7.095. It’s about 15 cents per thousand.
“You reach across (the aisle) and good things will be done,” Kunzwiler told Oswego County Today after the meeting. “Fred and I are on the same page – it’s not done. The libraries talked about it today, those fundings are going to have to be looked at next year; everything’s going to be looked at. This is only the tip of the iceberg.”
“That’s absolutely right,” Beardsley agreed. “The phrase I’ve been using for weeks now is cost avoidance; meaning we need to look at things that aren’t just one-time savings. Unfortunately, one of those things is people. We need to take a hard look at a number of services. It’s not going to be popular, but what else can you do?”
“We got to this point, which is a milestone,” he continued. “And, judging from every legislator I’ve talked to, their opinions vary slightly but they all realize next year’s not going to be fun. We’ve got a lot more hard decisions to make down the road.”