By Barry Leemann, Chairman, Oswego County Legislature
As we close out the old year and begin a new one, it can be helpful to review the goals we set at the beginning of the year and see what we actually accomplished.
The development of a new Ã¢â‚¬Å“Citizen-FriendlyÃ¢â‚¬Â tax bill was one of many projects that I set out to achieve when I presented the state of the county address last February. The 2010 tax bills, which are being delivered over the next few days, have been re-designed to make them easier to read and understand. And, the new format requires less paper, saving money and natural resources.
The average county tax rate is down slightly from 2009, from $7.18 for every $1,000 of assessed value to $7.16 in 2010. A new section of the tax bill, under the heading of Ã¢â‚¬Å“Your County Tax Explained,Ã¢â‚¬Â explains how the rate is calculated and gives information about costs that county government has no control over, such as Medicaid and community college tuition reimbursements. The tax rate varies in some municipalities, depending on equalization rates, local workers compensation costs, and other factors.
The new bill also simplifies the breakdown of costs. Some of the county costs that were previously separated are combined. Local municipal expenses such as town highway services or fire districts are listed separately.
Some taxpayers have already received their bills while other municipalities will mail them out the first week in January. The LegislatureÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Community and Consumer Affairs Committee, chaired by Legislator Kevin Gardner of New Haven, worked with County Treasurer John Kruk, Deputy Treasurer Christine Wolford, Administrator Phil Church, Real Property Tax Director David Hastings, and Central Services Director Richard Hogan to develop the new tax bill.
I would also like to bring you up to date on a few other recent developments. Through the formation of my Ã¢â‚¬Å“Green TeamÃ¢â‚¬Â initiative, county government has made a significant effort to gather information about our existing energy use and look at where we can make wise decisions for energy savings. So far, we have conducted energy audits on seven county facilities. In December the County Legislature approved energy conservation projects that will save thousands of dollars and hundreds of tons of greenhouse gases over the next few years.
The county accepted an $183,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for energy conservation lighting and lighting controls at the Legislative Office Building on East Bridge Street, Oswego, and the Bunner Street Health Complex in Oswego.
The county will also partner with National Grid to upgrade lighting systems at the Oswego and Pulaski courthouses, the Buildings and Grounds office complex, and buildings at Camp Hollis. National Grid will pay a portion of the costs.
When completed, these improvements will save approximately $58,000 and 434,000 kilowatt hours a year. The decrease in electrical consumption is equal to almost 150 tons of greenhouse gases a year – equal to the amount of greenhouse gases that would be produced by 110 average-sized cars driving from one end of the United States to the other.
And all of us who recycle can be proud of our efforts – since the county implemented single-stream recycling and eliminated the need for separation of materials by our residents a year ago, the quantity of materials being recycled has increased by 65 percent!
These are only a few of the energy-saving projects that Oswego County government is exploring as we enter the new decade. I assure you that we will be diligent in our efforts to be responsible to the earth while being careful stewards of the taxpayersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ dollars.
I look forward to the opportunity to continue these projects and will keep you informed on our progress over the months to come.
Thank you, and best wishes for a peaceful and healthy New Year.