OSWEGO, NY – Following a few changes to the 2012 spending plan Thursday night, Oswego County Legislators approved the $193 million budget.
The vote was 20-4-1. Voting against the budget were the four Democrats Mike Kunzwiler, Amy Tresidder, Doug Malone and Jacob Mulcahey.
Legislator Mark Fruce was absent.
Legislator Arthur Ospelt, chair of the Finance and Personnel Committee, thanked everyone for coming together to create a budget that slightly reduces the tax rate.
“We’ve done all this good for the taxpayers,” he said, adding what taxpayers paid this year should be about the same as what they’ll pay next year.
The tax agreement with the nuclear plants was signed earlier in the day by the county and Thursday evening by the Oswego City School District.
It will increase the revenue side of the budget by $10 million, and thereby decrease the tax levy by the same, according to County Administrator Phil Church.
The budget reduces the generic tax rate by 4 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, from $6.99 to $6.95 per $1,000.
The tax levy is down below the (2 percent) tax cap, he added.
Attempts by the Democrats to make further cuts in the budget Thursday night failed.
They sought to eliminate things such as a senior index clerk position, health insurance, mileage and travel reimbursement for legislators.
“We need smaller government,” Malone explained.
Legislator Jack Proud called the suggestions “token cuts.”
“They may be small cuts, but we have to start somewhere,” Kunzwiler said.
“We’ve got to get better at this,” said Legislator James Karasek. “Four cents does not keep people from losing their homes, it does not take the financial pressure off of the families. It’s a gesture. It’s good. It’s always better down than up. But we as a body need to become a little bit more unified and tell the state of New York that these mandates are killing us. They have got to go away; they have got to take some of this back. And, if they don’t, we have to dig our heels in the ground and start saying no to some things because we’re going to have to make some hard decisions here at home.”
The 4 cents decrease would mean $4 for him, the legislator pointed out. “It’s a couple scratch off (lottery) tickets. It doesn’t do anything to change any of my bills,” he said. “I’d like to see us be a lot more proactive, to make this low enough in the future so that we are attractive to business and growth for businesses that are here.”
“Every year when we do the budget, we look at that specific budget,” Proud said. “What we are ignoring that results actually in great savings is the excellent job that we are doing in long-term budget management.”
Each year, the county builds up its reserves, he noted. In lean times, they can be used and not impact the county budget, he said.
“That is one way of preserving and making budget cuts down the road. We are in effect doing that every time we do something long-range,” he added. “We don’t give ourselves enough credit for doing that because we are looking right here, instead of out there.”