Tonawanda News

Local News

November 16, 2012

Proposed county budget would force tax hike

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — There will be changes — i.e. more spending cuts — before it's adopted anyway, legislative Majority Caucus Leader Richard Updegrove, R-Lockport, said Thursday. Legislators have until Dec. 18 to propose line item changes and put them up to a vote.

"We intend to work these next few to lower the tax burden," Updegrove said in a statement. "We will seek input from our department heads and work with them to achieve further reductions ... ."

All department heads were given 2013 spending reduction "targets," averaging 3 to 3.5 percent, this past April. Since then, Glatz said, they reviewed staffing and operations with an eye on how to hit the targets without eliminating services. In case the department heads budgeted line items too conservatively, Glatz said the countywide contingency fund, raised to cover unanticipated expenses, was increased by $100,000.

Of the $5.4 million increase in year-over-year spending, $3.4 million comes from mandated, or non-negotiable, appropriations: Medicaid, employee pension contributions, welfare/safety net programs, preschool special education.

Add in the $2 million Somerset Power PILOT loss and the impact was a nearly 5 percent increase in the tax levy. Getting it under 4 percent meant "cutting things that are not mandated," Glatz said.

The tentative budget calls for eliminating 35 full-time jobs, 4 part-time jobs and 1 seasonal position. Most of the posts are vacant, or will be by the end of this year, after the sale of the county's Certified Home Health Agency to Catholic Health, and privatization of medical and mental health services positions at the county jail.

Affected departments and job cut counts are: Public health, 18 1/2; sheriff's office/jail, 9; social services, 3; public works, 2; Office of Aging, 1 (2 part-time); road machinery, 1; refuse district, 1; sewer district, 1; and emergency management, 1/2.

With the eliminations, the full-time county workforce will be 1,393 people, 97 fewer FTEs than in 2010, according to the budget summary.

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