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The Times
  • Herkimer Co. officials begin tackling budget

  • As Herkimer County begins its 2012 - 2013 budget process, Legislator Dennis Korce, R - Mohawk, said a first look suggests about a 9.5 percent tax increase.

    “It’s not uncommon for the first look to be crazy high,” he said. “Everyone’s going for the best possible scenario.”

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  • As Herkimer County begins its 2012 - 2013 budget process, Legislator Dennis Korce, R - Mohawk, said a first look suggests about a 9.5 percent tax increase.
    “It’s not uncommon for the first look to be crazy high,” he said. “Everyone’s going for the best possible scenario.”
    Legislators recently discussed several department budgets, Administrator James Wallace said.
    “It challenges department heads to know their subject matter and convince the Legislature that these are necessary funds,” said Korce. “It gives first-hand knowledge of where the money goes.”
    Wallace said the Office for the Aging budget is up $17,329 from last year.
    “I think what’s tough is that a lot of the increase is based on the increase in the retirement system,” he said. “The only number we control is the number of employees we have.”
    A $250,000 increase is expected, Wallace said, for a total cost of $3.6 million.
    “A few years ago that was $100,000,” he said.
    Legislator Helen Rose, D - Herkimer, said she would like to see retirement system costs addressed.
    “It’s a significant amount of money,” she said. “We have to make critical choices.”
    Public employees are entitled to enroll in the state’s retirement system, which is broken into tiers that divide employees based on their employment classifications and hire dates.
    Longer-tenured employees generally are enrolled in more lucrative pension tiers than their less-experienced colleagues.
    Local municipal leaders want further reform even though Tier V, which was created by former Gov. David Paterson in 2009, was expected to save the state and local governments $35 billion over the next 30 years.
    Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mandate relief team last year recommended that a less-generous level, Tier VI, be implemented. The proposed tier would:
    • Increase employee contributions.
    •Raise the minimum retirement age.
    •Reduce the multiplier used to determine allowances.
    •Require employees to work longer periods before qualifying for a pension.
    •Exclude overtime from pension calculations.
    The last three years of salary, including overtime, now are used to calculate most employees’ pensions. The current system is seen by critics as a way for employees to pad their pensions by stacking up overtime during the final years before they retire.
    Rose also noted benefits the county is maintaining should be examined.
    “No pulling the rug out from anyone,” she said. “Just look at what kind of options we can offer with Medicare that could be much more cost effective than what we’re offering.”

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