MALONE - Franklin County legislators adopted the final version of their 2013 budget Thursday.
The budget came in just under the 2 percent state-imposed tax cap at a 1.91 percent increase in the tax levy, raising it to $14.88 million.
There were some adjustments made since the last budget workshop, said county Manager Tom Leitz, including adding in about $450,000 in revenue because of a chargeback discovered by county Treasurer Bryon Varin. The county can get reimbursements from the state and federal governments for money it has spent on health insurance for retirees from its Department of Social Services. Leitz called the discovery a big help.
Legislator Tim Burpoe, D-Saranac Lake, said Varin believes the county might even be able to get reimbursements for past expenses, and it could add up to $1 million in revenue.
Leitz said there was some revenue lost due to the state taking over part of a public health intervention program. He's not sure whether the costs of the program will disappear along with the revenue, so he said he's hedged some money in the budget just in case.
Legislators included in their final budget, for the first time in several years, raises for non-union county employees. For the last few years, those raises have been included at first but pulled from the budget at the last minute to cut costs.
Most non-union employees, like department heads and confidential secretaries, got either $2,000 or $3,500. Part-time employees got smaller raises.
Burpoe said legislators thanked everyone involved in putting the budget together. He especially noted the work Leitz put into it.
"He's been fantastic," Burpoe said. "The knowledge that this guy brings to the table is absolutely incredible, and he has been working tirelessly on this budget."
Legislator Paul Maroun, R-Tupper Lake, also said in a phone interview that he appreciated Leitz, Varin and county Personnel Manager Paul Duffee's work on the budget. Maroun said he believes Franklin County is in as good or better shape than all the surrounding counties.
The new zero
Burpoe said county officials no longer feel comfortable with not raising the tax levy at all due to the state and other entities cutting revenues and adding mandates all the time.
"The 2 percent tax cap is now the new zero," Burpoe told the Enterprise in a phone interview. "Because of these uncertain times, we're unwilling to go as far as we should to make it a zero, because we don't know what's coming down the pipe."
Maroun noted that Franklin County actually could have spent about a half million dollars more and still stayed under the tax cap, since it didn't spend up to the cap in the budget it drew up last year and the excess carries over.
"I want the taxpayers to understand we didn't use any more than we absolutely needed to keep county government going," Maroun said.
Legislators also passed a local law Thursday that overrides the tax cap.
Maroun said it won't be used, but legislators decided to pass it just in case there is an error somewhere in the budget, or if the state comptroller's office changes some requirements, or something else goes wrong.
"We're not going to use it, but it's just in case, so we don't get slapped by the comptroller's office," Maroun said.
Legislator David "Billy" Jones, D-Chateaugay, was the only one to vote against the override.
Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.