They moved the decimal point.
A proposed 26 percent tax hike in the tentative 2013 Essex County budget is down to just 2.6 percent after a Thursday work session, according to Jay town Supervisor Randy Douglas.
Douglas said the board made substantial progress on reducing the budget. He said the potential 2.6 percent tax levy increase would meet the state's calculated 2.8 percent cap.
Jay town Supervisor Randy Douglas, center, chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, speaks Monday at a public hearing on the tentative 2012 budget. County Attorney Dan Manning, left, and Manager Dan Palmer listen.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Morris)
The proposed changes aren't final. The county Board of Supervisors still needs to vote on it, which could happen in the next two weeks.
"I feel very good about it," Douglas said. "I was hearing from people that I've never heard from before in my nine years in government. I was hearing from people that never complained about anything but were coming forward and saying, 'This is just not that time (to increase taxes).' People just weren't buying into it."
Supervisors hosted a public hearing on the budget Monday night at the county courthouse in Elizabethtown. Only three people spoke, and fewer than 15 people attended. All three speakers pleaded with supervisors to reduce the projected tax hike.
County lawmakers like Wilmington town Supervisor Randy Preston and Moriah town Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said it was the board's responsibility to do whatever possible to make reductions.
How did they do it? One way, Douglas, said is that the county may include $2.8 million in anticipated reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the 2013 budget. He said some supervisors were reluctant to include the money in the budget because of Superstorm Sandy.
"They feel that, 'Will we get this money?'" Douglas said. "Well, I've been assured by FEMA, and I told them I will lobby heavily for this money.
"This is money we were told we would get back for infrastructure repairs. ... I can't see how it would be denied."
The board also budgeted about $350,000 in anticipated revenue from a sale of tax-delinquent properties that will take place next year, Douglas said. Supervisors also reduced funding for contracting agencies to 2012 levels, which would save about $52,000.
Douglas said supervisors also cut $500,000 in equipment purchases,
Raises for management confidential employees included in the tentative budget may also be reduced from 3 to 2 percent, Douglas said. Raises for department heads could also be removed.
"Hopefully," he said. "I don't know if I have enough support."
"Ultimately, it's good for taxpayers in Essex County," North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi told the Enterprise. "This is what it takes: It takes people to get together and hammer it out."
Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.