Thirteen percent. That's the property tax increase people in St. Lawrence County will soon be looking at. County lawmakers tentatively approved the budget Monday night. Barry Wygel tells us why the hike was so high.
ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY, N.Y. -- After Monday's Board of Legislators meeting it became clear. Residents in St. Lawrence County are going to be forking over a little more cash to the county. The budget carries a 13 percent tax increase, or about $110 per 100,000.
"The reason that our tax rate is going to go up 13.4 percent: The reason for that is that we don't have the fund balance to use to lower that rate," said Morrill.
For the past couple years instead of raising taxes to make up revenue during the bad economy, the county has dipped into its savings. But this year, there's no money left. That means spending cuts or higher taxes.
"We've actually cut spending on other things, because of the things that are up that we have no control over," said Morrill.
Among the original cuts to the budget to try to keep the tax levy down was the elimination of the Sheriff's road patrol, but after a major public outcry, those cuts were set aside.
"The Sheriff's road patrol has a tremendous amount of public support. We found that out and I think that's a good thing. People were willing to pay for the safety that the Sheriff's road patrol provides," said Morrill.
But some departments were not so lucky. In total about 50 jobs were cut and a couple of programs.
"We cut seriously in the highway department. We cut the county legislature's budget. We cut the outside agencies, the libraries are getting nothing," said Morrill.
Morrill said he was happy how the budget turned out, but he knows it's going to be hard on the taxpayers.
"We're all very cognizant that 13.4 percent is unacceptable, it's unacceptable to us. We're all taxpayers too. We understand the pain," said Morrill.
The St. Lawrence County budget will be officially adopted at the Board of Legislators meeting next Monday.