County’s $295M approved budget keeps taxes flat

Sales tax revenues for 2012 amended for $1.3 million increase

— Democratic County legislators are once again touting a budget after approving a 2012 plan with no property tax levy increase.

The Schenectady County Legislature on Wednesday, Oct. 19, voted 13 to 2 to approve the 2012 budget, with both Republicans voting in dissent. The budget totals $295.3 million and kicks in starting Jan. 1.

After amendments offered from the Democratic majority the overall property tax levy holds no increase. Also, amendments to the approved budget restored $50,000 for home delivered meals to seniors and provided a $60,000 grant to support a suicide prevention program at Schenectady High School.

“This year’s zero percent increase is in addition to four tax cuts in the past six years,” said Judy Dagostino, chairwoman of the Schenectady County Legislature. “Even with an increase in unfunded mandates passed down to counties by New York State, we worked extremely hard to reduce the burden on taxpayers while protecting vital services.”

The amendment eliminating the previous 1.5 percent tax levy increase included in the tentative budget for 2012 did raise contention from Minority Leader Robert Farley. Democrats argued sales tax revenues are increasing and the county manager’s original figures came in a little below estimated revenues.

“We went back and looked at our sales tax revenue and realized it has been increasing significantly from year to date,” said Dagostino. “We were able to increase the amount of sales tax revenue we would be expecting this year.”

Farley lambasted the amendment.

“I don’t think it is very prudent as someone that has a responsibility to the taxpayers to turn around and overestimate that at a level of substantial increase,” Farley said. “Where local governments run into problems fiscally is not by turning around and not spending too much money … it is overestimating revenues. To turn around and take an estimate provided by our professional manager … and simply increase it to do away … [with a] tax increase is not prudent.”

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