Early budget shows 12.9 percent tax hike

At the Schenectady County Legislature meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 14, legislators discussed the 2009 proposed operating budget, which was released and passed on to them on Wednesday, Oct. 2. The proposed budget includes a 12.9 percent property tax increase. Schenectady County Legislature has until Saturday, Nov. 1, to make modifications and adopt a final budget.

The 2009 budget was the most difficult budget we've put together in many years, said Kathleen Rooney, Schenectady County manager, in a written statement. "This budget reflects the fiscal dilemma facing Schenectady County and other counties across New York state."

She cited part of the budget increase as the result of year upon year of ever-increasing state-mandated costs, such as Medicaid, which are currently consuming more than 75 percent of the total property and sales tax revenues brought in by the county. This, she stated, is largely due to the national economic crisis the country is currently facing.

"Much of what we're burdened with is a result of state issues," said county legislator Martin Finn, D-Niskayuna.

The overall 2009 budget appropriation totals $279,994,300, which is 1.2 percent more than the 2008 budget, and reflects growth below the rate of inflation. The total net cost for Schenectady County taxpayers after reimbursements from federal, state and other county revenue sources is approximately $123 million, which is paid for through county sales tax and property tax revenues.

Balancing the proposed 2009 budget necessitates a property tax increase of 12.9 percent. That means the average homeowner in Schenectady County with a property value of $150,000 will see an approximate $125 increase in taxes next year.

Some county legislators say they are disheartened by the proposal and are working to lower the tax levy.

"The entire country is feeling the results of governmental mismanagement," said Schenectady County legislator Angelo Santabarbara, R-Rotterdam, in a written statement. "We should be looking for ways to cut spending so we can reduce property taxes on overburdened homeowners, not increase them."

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