December 30, 2008
County Legislature Holds the Line on Tax Rate
Despite major increases in the costs of human services and other programs, the 2009 budget adopted by the County Legislature holds the generic property tax rate at the 2008 level of $7.18 per thousand dollars of assessed value. The last time the Oswego County tax rate was this low was in 2000.
About 20 percent, or $36,799,392, of the total $181,966,815 budget will be raised by property taxes. The remainder is raised by state and federal revenues, sales tax, grants, and user fees.
Of course, the overriding concern in developing this year's budget is the dramatic downturn in the state and national economies. County government continues to provide assistance programs, and this year we will fund approximately $87 million in human services programs. This includes money for the senior citizens meals on wheels program, all of our social services programs, including food stamps and assistance for low-income families, aid for women, infants and children, health services, and assistance to Oswego County Opportunities and their many community programs.
Some people have expressed concern over a reported lack of funding for the Central New York Food Bank. There are numerous independent food banks in our county and we have never provided direct support to any of them. Last year was the first year the food bank asked for direct support from county government. The Central New York Food Bank is funded by the federal and state governments, and is required to provide food to this county as well as the other counties in Central New York. If we fund one, how can we not fund all of them?
We did, however, recently sign a $10,000 contract with the Food Bank of Central New York to provide technical support and training services to the local food pantries in Oswego County. This project will provide Internet service and allow people to apply for food stamps over the Internet at the local food pantries.
County government provides funding for many other agencies and programs, either partial or full. There are also many more groups that request our financial support every year. Although we wish we could provide funding to all who ask - when we consider the taxpayer cost, we cannot. Somewhere we have to stop. The taxpayer cannot afford any more. It is not easy to say no. We would all rather say “no problem” and hand over the money.
Even though the 2009 budget appropriations increased $7.1 million, and forecasts for state revenues are down, the overall tax levy was up by only $1.3 million. Department heads, administration and legislative committees examined all requests line-by-line and reduced spending by $5.8 million during the budget's development.
Another issue that had a significant effect on the budget has been the price of gasoline and petroleum products. The dramatic price drops have reduced estimated costs for mileage, highway paving materials, and heating costs; however, it will also mean lower sales tax revenues than were originally predicted.
Now that Governor Paterson has released his budget proposal, we'll take a close look and analyze its impact on the services that we provide. I will be updating you with more information on the impact of the state budget as we receive it in the weeks ahead.
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