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Saratoga County officials approve $232M budget

Saratoga County will keep the property tax rate steady at $2.15 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2008.

The $232 million county budget was approved unanimously by the Board of County Supervisors on Wednesday, Dec. 12.

According to county officials, the $2.15 per $1,000 is the lowest property tax rate in the state. Commercial and residential development are driving the tax base and keeping the rate steady, they said.

Though the amount of taxes paid by a homeowner will vary from community to community, the owner of a home assessed at $200,000 would pay, on average, $431 next year in county taxes.

Three supervisors voted against separate resolutions authorizing 3.8 percent cost-of-living increases for county management personnel. Joanne Yepsen, D-Saratoga Springs; Harry Gutheil, R-Moreau and Frank Thompson, R-Milton, said they were concerned that across-the-board percentage raises would mean more money for already highly paid managers and less of a raise for lower-salary managers.

My objection is to the distribution of the cost of living, said Gutheil. Supervisors said a new personnel committee will look more closely at management compensation next year.

The budget includes $10 million in capital spending, with $1 million set aside toward designing a new public safety building. The proposed public safety building would bring the sheriff's dispatching center, road patrol, county emergency services and public health nurses under one roof, in a new building separate from the county jail.

In addition to the $1 million for the public safety center design, the sheriff's department also received three new staff positions: two new road patrol officers and one new dispatcher.

The budget also includes $500,000 for designing a new county animal shelter.

The county has been studying replacement of the animal shelter in Milton, which carries an $8 million construction cost.

County officials used conservative estimates for revenue when preparing the budget. More of the county's revenue comes from sales taxes than from property taxes, said County Treasurer Sam Pitcheralle. He said because sales tax income is trending downward, he used a conservative estimate when preparing for 200 -- $51 million.

The county budget for 2007 had predicted that the county would take in $51.6 million in sales-tax revenue in 2007, which turned out to be too optimistic an estimate.

The $67 million county water system and the expanding county sewage treatment plant are not included in the county's operating budget since they are run separately from county government and are supposed to be paid for by users.

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