Dan Hust | Democrat
Ken Walter of Grahamsville offered several ideas to increase revenue in the county and thus offset a proposed tax increase for 2013.
earful on budget
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO For the first few minutes of Tuesday’s noontime hearing on the county budget, the nine legislators outnumbered the audience.
Eventually, a dozen residents and businesspeople showed up, with about half of them voicing deep concerns over the proposed $195 million budget for 2013 especially the 13.77 percent tax increase that comes with it.
“Have you lost your minds?” asked Mongaup Valley’s Sondra Bauernfeind.
Arguing that the tax hike will also make the county unattractive to visitors, she urged legislators to cut costs by getting rid of the airport.
“Take out all the projects that are special-interest projects that don’t help the people of Sullivan County,” she added.
“Can you ‘man up’?” asked Forestburgh’s Sabina Toom-ey. “Do you have the guts to make decisions that may cause you to be unpopular?”
Residents, said Toomey, “are so ready for you to effect a change.”
She offered support toward that goal, a thought echoed by other speakers.
Some, like Ken Walter, had concrete ideas.
He advocated ways to boost revenue, from returning to garbage importation to more aggressively investigating sales and room tax fraud.
“We really don’t have a spending problem… it’s income,” he surmised.
Preston Roosa of Grahamsville noted that surrounding counties like Ulster have managed to come in under the two-percent state-mandated tax increase cap, and he lamented the fact that this hearing (the second of two legally-required public hearings) was set for noon on a Tuesday.
Except for senior citizens, he said, “everyone else who’s paying their taxes is working!”
Rock Hill’s Renata Gittler felt the county’s problems with gangs, poverty and high taxes would not be helped by the currently-proposed bud-get.
“It’s going to hurt people and give us an even worse reputation,” she told legislators, warning that foreclosures “will double if you do not look carefully at what you’re doing.”
Legislators quietly listened, and Chairman Scott Samuelson said the remarks will play a part in their deliberations.
“We will be taking your comments into consideration,” he promised.
After the hearing, he confirmed that the Executive Committee and then the full Legislature will meet next week to likely offer amendments to the proposed budget, some of which might knock down the much-loathed 13.77 percent tax hike.
Both meetings are open to the public (with public comment periods) and will be held at the Government Center in Monticello. Executive begins at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18, and the regular monthly meeting of the full Legislature begins at 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20.
The Legislature is expected to adopt some form of the budget at that Dec. 20 meeting.
For more information on the proposed budget, call 807-0435 or visit www.co.sullivan.ny.us.