OSWEGO, NY – After a two-part meeting Thursday, the Oswego County Legislature approved the 2016 spending plan.
The vote was pretty much fell along party lines.
The budget contains a tax hike of 2.8 percent. That is down from 3.9 percent at the start of the meeting.
The tax levy is down 14.7 percent from 2015, according to County Administrator Phil Church.
Legislator trimmed the budget down (about $2 million) from $195,409,729 to “$194 and change,” he added.
Legislators in the Minority felt more cuts could have been made to lower the budget even further.
Several proposed reductions were offered by Legislator Frank Castiglia. None of them were approved.
The legislators need to lead by example, fellow Democrat Legislator Jake Mulcahey.
“It’s time we really have to start considering what measures need to be taken. It’s not a lot of easy decisions that need to be made,” he said.
The county is also taking $500,000 from its savings to help balance the 2016 budget.
That, according to Mike Kunzwiler, Minority Leader, is a very big mistake.
Raiding Peter to pay Paul will come back to hurt the county in the next couple of years, he said. The county could be faced with a huge tax hike as well as several layoffs, he warned.
“We have $25.8 million sitting in that account right now. If we leave here today with a 3.8 or 3.9 percent (tax rate increase) and go out and tell our taxpayers they’re going to have to come up with an extra $500,000 when we have $25.8 million sitting right in that fund, that’s for a situation like this, (they won’t like it,)” Legislator Terry Wilbur explained. “The fund balance is not there to rely on every single year.”
That money is to protect the county’s future, Kunzwiler said, adding legislators need to find other options.
“Be prudent,” he said. “Think about what you’re doing.”
“This isn’t balancing the budget,” Castiglia agreed. “You’re just throwing a Band-Aid on it for a year.”
“Things are tight. We need to get leaner,” Legislator Marie Schadt added.
Legislature Chairman Kevin Gardner said, “It’s not our money. It’s our constituents’ money. We’re using it to benefit them.”
“No, no, I’m not satisfied with the budget. It’s a false 2.8 percent,” Kunzwiler told Oswego County Today following the meeting. “You have notice; you know we’re going to lose more revenue. The PILOT (with Nine Mile) decreases each and every year. I hope I’m not right. But if I am, it’s the taxpayers that lose. (The Minority) offered $100 and some thousand in cuts. Then if (they were approved) if they wanted to go back to the contingency to get the rest, OK.”