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No Tax Hike Planned in 2008 Budget

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — November 16, 2007 — Sullivan County Manager David Fanslau filed the tentative 2008 county budget with the Sullivan County Legislature yesterday, highlighting no need for layoffs or a property tax increase.
To reach those goals, however, 50 vacant and 15 newly-requested positions will not be filled, overtime will be limited (and strictly monitored) to a handful of departments, and bridge improvements won’t be done unless funded by state and federal sources.
“If I were to have included each item and position that was requested in my budget hearings with the department heads and commissioners, there would have been an additional $17.7 million in this tentative budget,” said Fanslau, “which would have necessitated a 45 percent property tax increase.”
The county manager also is planning to implement performance-based monitoring, meaning that all departments will be required to show an acceptable level of results in relation to their funding. In particular, the Department of Community Services and the solid waste operations of the Department of Public Works will get heightened scrutiny, based on recent fiscal concerns.
In fact, Fanslau has asked every department to submit a list of goals, missions, performance targets and measures, which will be provided to the Legislature as the beginning part of a strategic plan to be presented next year.
Recognizing that the tax base is stretched, Fanslau is also advocating for the development of an Economic Development Master Plan that focuses on each town and village.
The tentative 2008 budget actually includes half a million dollars for the 15 townships and six incorporated villages – culled from the increased sales tax approved earlier this year – to be used for property tax relief.
The anticipated revenue from the increased sales tax will also be used as promised with the Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Public Works, though the expected revenue has dropped from $6 million to $4.6 million.
“This is an extremely austere, fiscally conservative, tight budget,” said Fanslau yesterday, adding that, even so, a property tax increase couldn’t be ruled out for 2009 if “the economic indicators stay as they are.”
He’s already telling every department to cut costs by five percent for 2009 but hopes that economic development won’t necessitate that.
In the meantime, Fanslau has crafted a 2008 tentative budget that holds the line on taxes.
“I believe this budget reflects my office’s commitment to delivering a comprehensive budget package that takes a realistic look at revenue trends,” he remarked, “and also takes a hard look at where the county’s resources are being spent.”
Public hearings are scheduled for noon on December 6 and 5:30 p.m. on December 13. Copies of the budget are available at the Legislature’s office in the Government Center in Monticello, and the public is welcome to attend the Management and Budget Committee meetings to be held in the following weeks, prior to the Legislature’s expected adoption of the budget on December 20 at 2 p.m.
For more information, contact the Legislature at 794-3000, ext. 3300.

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