By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO September 16, 2003 All but a handful of counties in New York raised their property taxes last year. Sullivan County was one of the few that did not.
This year, Sullivan County may not be so lucky. When the tentative budget is filed on October 1, it is expected that County Manager Dan Briggs will suggest a real property tax increase and county layoffs.
The county is facing a $3 million increase in Medicaid costs, more than $3 million in employee pension contributions, and more than a million dollars in rising health insurance costs.
The budget was discussed at the Sullivan County Legislatures Executive Committee meeting on Thursday, September 11. The discussion started when Committee Chair Leni Binder announced that County Attorney Ira Cohen had been appointed to the National Association of Counties (NACO) Finance and International Government Relations Committee.
The county is unsure if they will stay involved with NACO because it may be one of the items cut in cost-saving measures.
Cohen has yet to accept the appointment and wanted the Legislatures permission to do so. The committee meets twice a year, once in Washington, D.C., but the financial implications are unknown. Cohen will look into it and report back.
Earlier in the day, the Health and Family Services Committee passed a resolution urging the governor and the State Legislature to disclose the methodology used to compute the local share of Medicaid and other mandated social services.
It is hoped this will open negotiations to put a cap on it. Binder was bringing the resolution to the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) Convention on Monday, September 15.
Budget hearings have been going on throughout the month of September, and they will continue to the end of the month. No decisions on the budget have been made. However, several legislators voiced their opinion on the process when asked by the Democrat.
The Legislature is determined not to raise property taxes, Binder commented. The Medicaid costs have eaten up our reserves.
As the past chair of the Finance Committee for three years, we did everything in our power to keep taxes stabilized, remarked District 2 Legislator Kathleen LaBuda. There will be no tax increase or layoffs.
We have to let the process take its course, stated Legislature Vice Chair Bob Kunis. At this point, it is too premature to talk about tax increases or layoffs. We will review the numbers as the process goes along, and we will make decisions based on the best interest of Sullivan County.
We are still in the early stages, Financial Management Committee Chair Greg Goldstein said. I formed the budget review committee earlier this year so that there would be no major problems. We will do what we have to do. We will try for no layoffs or a tax increase.
Briggs is expected to present the tentative budget at the next Financial Committee meeting on Thursday, October 2. The budget must be adopted by the middle of December.