Schenectady County passes budget

Schenectady County Democrats shaved the proposed tax increase from 12.9 percent to 8.9 percent through a series of amendments before approving the 2009 budget, 10-to-5, but GOP legislators argued that the cuts didn't do enough.

At a meeting of the Schenectady County Legislature on Thursday, Oct. 30, the Democrats proposed a hiring freeze, energy conservation measures and other cost-saving steps, but Legislator Robert Farley, R-Scotia, said, The simple fact of the matter is that Schenectady County taxes too much and spends too much, giving far too little value to its taxpayers. Programs such as the library and community college are run well, but far too many other programs are overly bloated, packed with patronage and poorly administered.

Legislator Philip Fields, D-Schenectady, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, unveiled the amendments, which were made to trim the county budget. Under this budget, the average homeowner in Schenectady County, with property valued at $150,000, will see an approximate $86 increase to his or her taxes this year, versus the originally proposed $125 increase.

"From my perspective, I would say [this was] the most difficult budget that we have had to develop in my five years in the legislature," said Gary Hughes, D-Schenectady. "I think we did a good job."

Chairwoman Susan Savage, D-Niskayuna, said unfunded mandates continue to be responsible for increases in spending at the county level. She said that they're managing the costs that they can directly control, but mandated costs continue to increase, and that's what is driving county tax increases.

"If New York state would assume the cost of Medicaid rather than pass it on to counties, we could reduce property taxes in Schenectady County by 50 percent," said Savage, in a written statement. "New York is the only state in the nation that requires counties to pick up the cost of Medicaid. New Yorkers are in dire need of real property tax relief, and a state takeover of Medicaid would allow us to provide it."

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