County begins budget process anew

NORWICH – It’s the beginning of another budget season as Chenango County lawmakers began scrutinizing governmental departments this month, hoping to carve out any possible fat that can make up for a 12 percent shortfall in sales tax collections and costly state cuts to mandated programs.

Unfortunately, the fat isn’t going to be there this year, at least not in the Department of Social Services. DSS was one of the first budgets the Finance Committee tackled last week and the county’s largest local share cost, at $11 million.

Despite approximately $1.3 in federal stimulus for Medicaid assistance that will be credited toward Chenango County by year’s end, state program cuts will leave DSS’ combined programs with $100,000 less for 2010.

“They give it and then they take it away,” said Chenango County Deputy Treasurer Ardean Young.

DSS administration salaries and benefits are $5.32 million, including newly established employee union raises at 4.4 and 4.5 percent. Offset with state and federal revenues that are down by 10.8 percent, taxpayers could be asked to afford $800,000 in a budget that previously contributed surplus to help hold the levy down. Finance Committee Vice Chairman Dennis Brown, D-Pharsalia, pointed out that there was nearly half a million left over in the administration budget last year.

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