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Stay within tax cap

July 22, 2012
The Leader Herald

There is a long way to go still in the budget process for Fulton County, but the county supervisors already have given us reason to be concerned.

Earlier this month, the Fulton County Board of Supervisors scheduled a public hearing in August on a proposed law to override the tax-levy cap that will be imposed on the 2013 budget.

Last year, the board voted to override the cap and adopted a $93 million budget that raised the tax levy 6.37 percent. The cap would have kept the tax-levy increase at 3.76 percent.

We understand the supervisors have reduced spending in some areas in recent years and continue to battle with the state regarding unfunded mandates and reduced aid.

Jon Stead, the county administrative officer, says health insurance costs for county employees, along with retirement-system costs, can be expected to increase this year. Fuel and utility costs could increase as well, he said, based on what has happened the last couple of years.

While the county proposal at this point gives the board only the option to override the tax cap, supervisors should not seriously consider an override.

The board has raised the average tax rate about 16 percent over two budget years. This has happened in an area where a category of census data showed Gloversville has the highest poverty rate in the state and the county's unemployment rate was 10.8 percent in May. That percentage was the highest in upstate New York.

The board has plenty of time to crunch the numbers and determine what can be eliminated to keep the budget within the tax-levy cap. While supervisors were able to avoid making many painful and politically dangerous cuts last year, the reality is taxpayers in Fulton County can't afford another tax increase.

When it comes time to vote on the county budget later this year, we hope the county board members will vote to keep any tax-levy increase within the tax cap. A tax cut would be even better.



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