Herkimer County taxpayers will face a 1.998 percent property tax increase if the Legislature’s proposed 2014 budget is approved.
The property tax increase included in the $102,295,490 budget is up about one percent from the current year. The Legislature’s 2013 adopted budget totaled $96,371,668.
County Administrator James Wallace said major increases in the proposed spending plan include $3,203,446 in highway funds, $1,360,000 for foster care, $498,801 for health insurance, $400,000 for the board out of prisoners, $131,728 for retirement contributions, $118,628 for Country Manor and $61,770 for soil and water conservation.
Wallace said the increase in highway spending is due to “one-time circumstances” as a result of the late June and early July flooding that took place in Herkimer County.
Specifically, Wallace said the increase includes about $870,000 in road maintenance work and about $1 million in Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program work the county was unable to complete due to the summer flooding.
“The figure also includes about $1 million in equipment purchases using money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency,” Wallace said during a telephone interview Thursday. “All of these items are one-time circumstances in the budget and are a direct result of the flood. In the case of the equipment, the county will be able to purchase items that it will be able to utilize for years to come using FEMA moneys.”
Reductions in the tentative budget include $180,000 for the education of handicapped children, $43,000 for the county’s STOP-DWI program and $21,975 in services for physically handicapped children. Wallace said the reductions to the children’s programs were largely due to a reduction in the number people utilizing the services.
The anticipated tax rate for the city of Little Falls is $27.79 per thousand of assessed valuation, up from $27.54. Anticipated tax rates for the townships are Columbia, $6.14 from $5.95; Danube, $6.21 from $6.15; Fairfield, $6.79 from $6.74; Frankfort, $8.10 from $7.34; German Flatts, $7.04 from $7.20; Herkimer, $5.91 from $5.86; Litchfield, $6.10 from $5.92; Little Falls, $7.62 from $7.82; Manheim, $7.96 from $7.90; Newport, $5.12 from $5.08; Norway, $7.33 from $7.50; Ohio, $5.49 from $5.44; Russia, $5.49 from $5.44; Salisbury, $5.54 from $5.48; Schuyler, $6.18 from $6.13; $9.20 from $9.13; Warren, $5.46 from $5.41; and Winfield, $6.12 from $5.93.
Herkimer County Fair Treasurer Gerry Elthorp addressed the Legislature during their meeting Wednesday evening in regard to $5,000 she said was removed from the budget that would normally go to maintenance and repair of the fairgrounds in Frankfort.
“We rely on this money to maintain our buildings and grounds and to keep them in good shape,” said Elthorp, adding the fair has plans to build additional space to house animals and has expanded its exhibition space in the past. “Our economic impact on Herkimer County is over $5 million between the fair and 28 off-season events,” she said.
Legislator Gary Hartman, D - Herkimer, said during legislator comments the $5,000 seemed like a “drop in the bucket” compared to the county’s overall budget.
Page 2 of 2 - "The fairgrounds' economic impact year round, the economic impact of the fair itself and the impact of agriculture on the county's economy, together with the promotion of the county and agriculture that the fair's unpaid volunteers provide, it truly is a drop in the county's budget compared to the benefits provided by the fair activities and the dedicated volunteers. Let's not make their job harder," he said.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Patrick Russell, R - Old Forge, said work on the budget would continue. “Just because the Legislature approves a tentative budget does not mean the budget process stops,” he said. “It will continue.”
The public hearing on the proposed budget will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4, in the Legislature chambers of the county office building at 109 Mary St., Herkimer.