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Schenectady County approves budget

The Schenectady County Legislature passed its $280.9 million budget Thursday, Oct. 25, during a special meeting by a margin of 9-to-5, with one member absent.

Republicans voted against the budget because it increased property taxes and all four members of the caucus thought more cuts could be made Democrat Anthony Jasenski, who is running for re-election in District 4, joined the minority in voting against the budget.

The budget calls for the reduction of 66 county positions at every level, including an assistant county manager position, deputy county attorney, the director of youth services, a librarian and legal secretary.

This is the most painful part of government, head of the Ways and Means Committee Legislator Philip Fields, D-Schenectady, said.

Fields said most of the positions were cut by eliminating vacancies, consolidating functions and through attrition.

The adopted budget calls for a $60.6 million tax levy, which is down $3 million from the $63.6 million proposed budget from County Manager Kathleen Rooney, whose budget would have raised the tax levy by 9.7 percent. The adopted budget raises the tax levy by 4.5 percent.

This year was a particularly difficult budget year due to an overestimated amount of revenues from county sales tax in last year's budget, a slowing Upstate economy, and increasing state mandates.

Rooney's original budget proposal cut $5.1 million through cost-containment strategies, including eliminating 51 county positions.

The Legislature's majority introduced a variety of amendments during the special meeting, which cut an additional 15 positions, cut benefits and management salaries, and cut back on contracts, which saved an additional $2.5 million.

The majority also plans to save money by consolidating the Schenectady Job Training Agency into the Department of Social Services.

The majority's amendments also increased revenues by $1.2 million through the sale of county property. The Legislature announced the $1 million sale of county property at the airport to global nutrient premix manufacturer Fortitech, which plans to build a distribution center and research and development center at the site.

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