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County tries to keep tax increase under 1 percent

NORWICH – It took more surplus than members of the Chenango County Finance Committee were comfortable with, $1.34 million to be exact, but proposing a 2010 budget that calls for only a slight burden on taxpayers was deemed more important.

After crunching the numbers and reviewing departmental requests for equipment, the county’s primary decision-makers will present a budget for consideration to the full board of supervisors on Monday, one that calls for only a .6 percent tax increase on spending of nearly $81 million.

A proposed average countywide tax rate of $13.75 will fluctuate, either increasing or decreasing, in all 22 municipalities based on state-established equalization rates. (See sidebar.)

The amount is a far cry from the nearly 5 percent increase projected just two weeks ago. The amount was shaved down to 4.73 percent after the county treasurer’s office found “housekeeping” errors in the public safety and information technology departments - a freezer billed twice and the new IT director’s salary over-reported. Later, a Chenango County Sheriff’s Office request for a dump truck was denied and a rubber tired loader for the Department of Public Works was moved into this year’s budget.

The board of supervisors will be asked, also on Monday, to decide whether to purchase the $250,000 loader - again with county surplus. DPW Director Randy Gibbon said the current loader was more than 20 years old. “We are driving junk. The towns have better equipment than we do,” he said.

The equipment list for all departments, most of which is partially funded by either state or federal cost-sharing, totaled more than $1 million before the changes.

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