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Greene Legislature passes slimmed-down budget

Dec 16, 2010 10:47 am
The Greene County Legislature adopted a $99.3 million spending plan for 2011, representing a 2.7 percent tax levy increase, at its end-of-year meeting in Catskill on Wednesday, December 15, according to a story in The Daily Mail today. Expenditures were reduced to $99.3 million from the tentative budget’s $99.7 million due to a bookkeeping change, reporter Colin DeVries reports Interim Greene County Administrator Daniel Frank saying. A $325,000 health care reimbursement revenue item was eliminated and appropriations for employee health insurance were reduced in each department, although it was pointed out that these changes will not result in any drops in employees’ health care coverage. The budget carries a $19,959,977 tax levy, a $539,646, of 2.7 percent, increase from 2011.

Legislators Christian Pfister, D-Athens, and Forest Cotten, D-Catskill, were the sole votes against adopting the budget, with Pfister noting that there should have been more meetings about the process, and numbers, involving all legislators and the public. Joseph Izzo (R-Catskill) voted for the overall budget but earlier voted against reductions in the county contracts for libraries, the Greene County Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the Greene County Council on the Arts. He also said the issue of community college chargebacks was handled badly.

Recent additions to the budget — $125,000 for community college chargebacks and $25,000 for tourism promotion — increased the tentative budget’s 2.1 percent tax levy.

County lawmakers have agreed to shoulder the chargeback expenses, which are currently levied on individual towns, over a five-year period. In 2011, the counties will be cover 20 percent of the chargebacks for students attending community colleges outside of the Columbia-Greene Community College boundaries.

Legislator Joseph Izzo, R-Catskill, voted against the measure Wednesday, stating more thought needed to be put into the college chargebacks.

“I find it’s financially irresponsible on our part to not notify and keep the town informed of this particular issue,” he said. “I’ve received positive comments from the town on this particular resolution but again, it’s the process I do not care for and is the lack of communication between us and the towns.”

Izzo was the sole vote against the legislation, which will result in the county covering 100 percent of the towns’ college chargebacks by 2015.

The 2011 budget does not include salary increases for employees and features $900,000 more in state-mandated retirement contributions, and a $1.5 million reduction in Medicaid assistance.

The budget includes $25.7 million in outstanding debt, including $3.3 million remaining from the 2003 county office building bond, $5.4 million left in road and bridge improvements from 2003, and $12.2 million for the recent state-mandated county courthouse renovation.

Legislators Christian Pfister, D-Athens, and Forest Cotten, D-Catskill, were the only to vote against adopting the budget.

Pfister commented that the budget process should have been more interactive among legislators.

“I assumed we would have multiple meetings over the course of the process,” he said, adding he was disappointed with the lack of workshops and minimal discussion on specific department impacts.

“I’m not speaking so much for the present but again I’m speaking to the future,” he said. “I hope that the legislature has more discussion on some of these significant issues.”

Though Izzo voted for the overall budget, earlier he had voted against reductions in the contracts for libraries, the Greene County Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the Greene County Council on the Arts.

He believed there should be a plan to deal with their economic losses before simply slashing funding.

The complete budget is available for public inspection at the Greene County Office Building, 411 Main St., Catskill.
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