Public Hearing Set For Proposed County Budget

OSWEGO, NY – The county Finance and Personnel Committee on Tuesday moved the proposed 2012 spending plan on to the full legislature and a public hearing.

Oswego County Administrator Phil Church proposed the legislature establish a debt reserve fund and pay down part of the principal for the E-911 radio project.

The motion to create a $3 million debt reserve fund; $1.5 million in 2012 and $1.5 million in 2013, coming out of the unappropriated fund balance, was approved unanimously.

The funds would be earmarked to only be used to pay off county debt.

“It also establishes a reserve, so if we end up with more fund balance than we think we will, we could actually stretch this out to a third or fourth year without having to charge taxpayers,” Church explained.

Right now, the way the budget stands, the tax levy would be $7.01 per $1,000 (of assessed value); 2 cents higher than this year, or “the equivalent of 0.3 of 1 percent,” Church pointed out.

“We have some things in the works to bring that down even more,” Church said.

The committee also examined other ways to reduce the budget, including eliminating the raises for legislators. The move will save approximately $10,000.

Legislator Jake Mulcahey asked about Mercy Flight Helicopter Service seeking $5,000 from the county to help service the area.

He said he asked Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd about the service, and Onondaga County’s Air One.

The sheriff told him the helicopter service was important to this area.

Mulcahey suggested reaching out to Onondaga County’s helicopter service in regard to assisting in funding.

“We have not volunteered money to anyone,” committee chair Art Ospelt said. “Anyone comes to us for money, we question that.”

Committee member Mike Kunzwiler suggested contacting Air One for information about their services.

“Mercy Flight gets paid by insurance companies, Air One does not charge us a nickel,” the sheriff said.

The Onondaga County Legislature has recently passed a resolution asking Air One not to fly in areas outside the county until they can secure funding, he added.

Cayuga County has provided some funding for Air One, “because they use them also,” the sheriff pointed out.

“I’m not proposing we throw around money. I’m against that as much as you are. My proposal is to reach out to Onondaga County,” Mulcahey said.

“I’m not against that. But how much do you have to have?” Ospelt asked.

The county will research the matter and bring it back to the committee for further discussion, he noted.

As another money-saving move, the county is considering creating a code enforcement position.

“New York State has decided to begin charging counties for building inspections. In the past, we’ve had to pay for permits for renovation and reconstruction. Now we’ll have to pay for inspections,” Church said.

It is expected top start in April, he added.

“The state is looking to charge a county $1,200 every time it sets foot in a structure. They define it as any free standing structure that a person can go into. What it basically means is Camp Hollis is not a one-time fee of $1,200. Each individual cabin, the arts and craft building, everything that’s a separate building would be subject to that $1,200 charge,” he told the committee.

If they did 35 structures in the county, at bare minimum that would be another $43,000 or $44,000 for the county to pay.

Oswego is one of only 12 counties that still rely on the state for building inspections. Other counties have designated themselves as their own code enforcement.

In order for the county to do that, they need to adopt a local law, Church said.

“We are defining that now and hope to bring that back to the committee before this budget is adopted,” he said.

The committee unanimously voted to send the budget proposal to the full legislature.

“I’d like to thank all the department heads for doing a good job and the committees for doing the best they could to cut the budget down,” Ospelt said.

“I just want to echo Legislator Ospelt’s comments and thank all of the department heads for all of the work that you did,” Church added. “I’d also like to give special recognition to Steve Loadwick and Mark See in the treasurer’s office. This whole thing can’t come together as much without their efforts. Their assistance is invaluable.”

The public hearing on the budget will be held on Dec. 15 at the County Building in Oswego.