County dips heavily into ‘rainy day’ fund

NORWICH – His hand gesture was difficult to decipher, and some say he put up four fingers, but Chenango County Finance Committee Chairman Lawrence Wilcox, R-Oxford, didn’t want to confirm his predictions about the exact amount of surplus that will be needed to keep the average tax rate low for the coming year.

Finance Committee Vice Chairman Dennis Brown, D-Pharsalia, did, however. He estimated aloud at the meeting of the Chenango County Board of Supervisors last Tuesday that between $3 and $4 million would be needed.

Without final budget calculations and pension rates locked in, the county’s 25-year veteran Treasurer William B. Evans was also reluctant to pinpoint an amount. Later in the week, he said reaching in for between $3 and $3.5 million was likely.

October’s county board meeting was the longest meeting of the year for good reason. At the start, surplus, which Evans fondly refers to as the county’s “rainy day fund,” stood at $18.1. After nearly two hours, and by the time lawmakers left the room, it was indeed pouring. Measures adopted gouged out $5 million from the pot.

A compensation schedule awarding employees with 1.5 percent raises across the board, their pension and health insurance benefit increases, and this year’s shortfall in health insurance put huge dents in available surplus.

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