Proposed cuts upset residents

Nearly 100 turn out to decry cost-savong measures

— The county-wide budget cuts proposed by the Board of Supervisors as cost-saving measures for the coming year were not popular with residents at a recent public hearing.

On Thursday, Dec. 1, nearly one hundred people attended the meeting to condemn the cuts. It was the only planned public forum held by the county and some residents were forced to spend the three-hour meeting in the hall because of the lack of space.

Residents decried plans to cut funding to facilities like the Brookside Museum and Saratoga Performing Arts Center, a 3.5 percent property tax increase and a proposal that could potentially add new costs to retired county employees. The tentative budget proposed by County Administrator Spencer Hellwig III would reduce spending by about $7 million, but those in attendance felt the budget should be balanced another way.

“There was certainly a lot of passion expressed and we heard it loud and clear,” said Board Chairman and Town of Saratoga Supervisor Thomas Wood.

Of the nearly 60 residents who spoke out at the meeting, about one-third showed support for the restoration of funds to the Brookside Museum. Executive Director Joy Houle said the proposed cut of the $11,250 subsidy to the museum represented a full year’s utility bill or one of their Native New York programs.

Eliminated from the budget was funding to SPAC, the Hudson Mohawk Urban Cultural Park, Capital District Regional Planning, the County Fair, and the money set aside to purchase fireworks for Saratoga’s First Night celebration. In addition, reductions were made to the Economic Development Corporation and the loan approved for the Saratoga Water Authority was decreased to $1 million..

While plans to raise the county sales tax were shot down by the board, the proposal to raise the property tax for the first time in nearly a decade is still on the table. The average county property tax rate would rise from $2.15 to $2.23 per $1,000, or a $16 increase for a house assessed at $200,000. Hellwig also suggested asking retirees and employees hired after 2001 to contribute 15 percent to their health insurance plans, while ending the reimbursement of Medicare Plan B co-pays.

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