By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO December 3, 2004 Real property taxes in Sullivan County are set to climb approximately 4 percent, according to the 2005 preliminary county budget released yesterday.
The increase replaces an earlier draft which would have increased taxes by 9 percent on a budget of $179,943,574.
The county faces a debt load of more than $60 million, mostly due to costs for the Sullivan County Landfill.
A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for December 7 at 6 p.m. and at noon on Thursday, December 9 in the hearing room at the Sullivan County Government Center in Monticello. The full legislature will vote on the budget December 16 at 2 p.m.
The preliminary budget, presented by Budget Chairman Jonathan Rouis and Legislature Chairman Chris Cunningham, made several alterations to the tentative budget, including an increase in appropriations to the engineering division by $900,000, an increase of $618,000 to roads and bridge maintenance contracting, a $1,253,866 decrease in employee benefits, a $100,000 decrease in special department supplies for road and bridge maintenance, and over $3 million in projected revenue increases.
Hundreds of county employees will see a 2.5 percent raise next year, if Teamsters Union Local 445 agrees to the countys proposal.
Two new sheriffs deputies will be added as a result of the budget revision, as well.
The budget further provides for $6,127,837 for personnel in Family Services administration, over $3.5 million for Sullivan County Community College, over $3 million for personnel under road and bridge maintenance for the Department of Public works, $384,622 for personnel in DPW administration, $937,530 in the engineering division of DPW, $243,819 for personnel in the Traffic Control division of DPW, $297,587 for personnel in the Department of General Services, $187,721 for contracting agencies in the Central Services division, $313,675 for personal services for county snow removal, $141,001 for the county manager and his secretary, $394,575 for personnel in the county treasurers department, $209,510 for personnel in Financial Administration, $579,229 for personnel in the Department of Planning and Community Development (an increase of over $124,000 from expenditures in 2003), $291,184 for the personnel in the county clerk/Department of Motor Vehicles office, $183,419 for Real Property administration, $360,209 for employees of the Real Property Tax Department, $596,337 for Community Services, and $1,430,725 for personnel in the Solid Waste Department.
In addition, legislators will hand themselves a 2.5 percent raise. Most said it was only fair, since the union would be receiving the same raise. Pay for Sullivan County legislators would rise to $19,187, Cunninghams salary would climb to $28,412.
In Other Legislative Business
The budget changes followed a day when the Public Works Committee unanimously passed several large expenditures for the Sullivan County Landfill, including $733,404 for a landfill blower bank and gas header main installation. Approximately $250,000 of those funds will be used for a new gas header to replace a rental. The rental costs the county approximately $36,000 a year, said John Kehlenbeck, Director of Solid Waste Management.
The committee also agreed to $231,000 for SCS Field Services, which was hired earlier this year to help stem the vast odor problems at the landfill. The company will continue its gas system monitoring, maintenance and air permit compliance next year, pending full approval by the legislature this month.
The committee sent up a resolution to the full legislature which would award a $170,000 contract to Malcolm Pirnie, which has been involved with landfill operations over the last decade. The resolution states that the company will be retained to maintain compliance with regulatory agency permit conditions.
Legislator Ron Hiatt expressed some concern over whether it was wise to retain an agency that bears some responsibility for the countys odor control problems in the past. Legislator Rodney Gaebel said it was unfair to place full responsibility on the company. He added that the company deserved to be rehired.
The committee passed the resolution with no objections on the vote.
After the meeting, Public Works Committee Chair Kathleen LaBuda said the expenditures would not be used until the county had received word on the landfills future.
Issues Conference May
Come on the Landfill
County Attorney Sam Yasgur stated that Administrative Law Judge Edward Buhrmaster of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the regional office of the New York State DEC and the intervening parties (SPECS, the Association of Town Supervisors, the Village of Monticello and the Town of Thompson) had until yesterday to submit their reaction to the countys odor control plan. A conference call has been set for Monday morning between the parties to see if an agreement can still be reached.
If not, an issues conference has been scheduled for Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. If the judge and commissioner rule in favor of the county, a permit for Cell 6 could be issued by January or February, said Yasgur.
If not, we have a very problematic scheduling problem, he said.
Space at the current landfill is scheduled to run out by the end of next year. County officials have stated that construction on Cell 6 must begin by the spring, or alternatives will be necessary.