NORWICH – Though it represents one of the smallest budgets in Chenango County, local taxpayers will be hit with a 58 percent increase for code enforcement next year.
Revenues in the department were down this year and cut in half since 2007, no doubt a reflection of the nation’s economic recession. There have been simply fewer new building projects, much less any new big box retailers like Walmart and Lowe’s to add to the bottom line. Chenango County saw a $30,000 decrease of the $80,000 anticipated this year from the collection of building fees.
The results were still a far cry from the $174,000 taken in just three years ago when many bricks and mortar projects and new homes were started. Next year will be the first time any local tax dollars will be needed to afford the department.
Moreover, when the Town of Norwich opted to break away and hire its own code enforcement officer last year, the county codes enforcement department was forced to cut staff. Other towns like New Berlin and Greene were already conducting their own permitting and enforcing. Fewer officers in the field resulted in fewer revenues for fire code inspections and maintenance calls.
Still, the department had high hopes for a maintenance fee chargeback system for the towns that rely on the county for service. When a property maintenance complaint was received at the county level, individuals were asked to fill out a form and send it to their town supervisor for approval. Codes would then charge $40 per hour to work with the property owner to either clean up the mess or issue them an appearance ticket.
The amount of charge-backs received were only half the amount budgeted, however. The towns refused to contract for services. No revenues from this activity are expected next year at all.
Chenango County Public Health Director Marcas Flindt said there were about a dozen complaints on a working list at this time. “I’m not saying we won’t handle a complaint. We’ll take them and put them on the list, and we’ll get to them when we get to it,” he said...