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Schenecatdy County passes budget with 5.9% tax hike

Minority says cuts are too little too late, supporters point finger at state

— The Schenectady County Legislature adopted a 2013 budget tonight smaller than the spending plan previously on the table, but with a tax hike still too large for some lawmakers.

The budget was adopted in a 9-6 vote, totals $295.5 million and carries with it a 5.9 percent increase to the property tax levy. County officials had previously floated a budget with a tax hike of 7.5 percent that was widely panned by residents, businesses and nonprofit groups during a required public hearing.

Legislators who supported the budget pointed the finger at the state early and often, saying after accounting for unfunded mandates there were few options left for cuts. In fact, a package of amendments to the budget included in it a call to state lawmakers for local relief from Medicaid costs.

“There is little left to cut, which means we had to cut from non-mandated areas,” said Majority Leader Gary Hughes when presenting the amendments. He further described the selected cutbacks as “overdue.”

The amendments, which passed by a vote of 3-12, include $250,000 cut from the library budget, mostly in hourly wages, with the further caveat the Library Board of Trustees create a restructuring plan for the library system by May 1 of 2013.

“It is long overdue time for the Legislature and the Trustees to sit down and look at the overall library picture,” Hughes said.

Other reductions include the removal of a position at the Glendale Nursing Home and minor cuts to membership dues paid in the county's law offices. Taken together, the cuts total more than $500,000. Several legislators said they would have preferred to have seen more cuts made to bring the tax hike down.

Before long, discussion at the meeting turned to the county nursing home. Minority Leader James Buhrmaster was quick to criticize the majority's amendments, saying they ignore major issues, and called the budget as a whole a “killer” to business and property owners.

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