County reviews highway, social services budgets

NORWICH – Finance committee supervisors waded through 2007 projections for two of Chenango County’s biggest budgets on Monday: $9.5 million for highways and $22.9 million for social services.

Neither department asked to raise the levy beyond 2005 levels; however salary and fringe benefit increases are still unknown.

“That retirement number is not going to be positive,” Treasurer William E. Evans said. “It could be between $1.7 to $1.8 million this year. Plus union contracts are demanding more. If we end up breaking even, I’ll be happy.”

County leaders poured over high fuel costs and equipment and employee needs, cutting very little despite the 3 1/2 hour work session.

After six years of imposed budget constraints, the Department of Public Works will attempt to get back on a regular road and bridge maintenance schedule next year. An administration directive in 2004 called for a 50 percent reduction in equipment costs across all departments. Also, rising Medicaid expenditures beginning in 2000 required departments to hold the line on increases.

As a result, the roads are only in “average” condition today, Public Works Director Randy Gibbon said. “We’ve been falling farther and farther behind by responding to problems instead of doing the work that has to be done.”

A suggested 11.7 percent increase, or $450,000, in maintenance expenses would put the DPW back on a regular six-year schedule. The increase would be for materials and machinery rentals for widening roads and maintaining roads and bridges.

Taxpayers won’t see the increase in next year’s levy because Gibbon intends to apply rolled over allocations from Consolidated Highway Improvement Programs. CHIPs funds from this year were used to cover expenses until Federal Emergency Management monies begin flowing in to cover expenses related to the flood disaster this past June.

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