The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

December 6, 2013

County budget adopted by default

By HOWARD BALABAN howard.balaban@journal-register.com
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — The Orleans County Legislature did not approve its 2014 budget Wednesday.

The vote ended in a three-to-three deadlock. Legislators Dave Callard, Lynne Johnson and Bill Eick were in favor of it. Legislators Henry Smith, George Bower and Don Allport cast dissenting votes.

Johnson, who serves as the chair of the county finance committee, was somewhat shocked.

“This was a bare bones budget,” she stated. “The county department heads submitted bare bones budgets and that’s what we worked with.”

The budget calls for $79.8 million in appropriations in 2014, with $60.1 million in revenue. The property tax levy will move up 4.98 percent, adding $.40 per $1,000 of assessed value to property owners’ tax bills.

According to Callard, who is the chairman of the legislature, a couple no votes were expected, but he noted the rationale behind them left him with questions.

“My contention is that you can vote no, but what solutions do you have?” Callard said. “We’re talking about over $1 million in cuts.”

Smith’s vote was cast because, he said, the taxpayers of Orleans County already pay enough.

“What we need to do is adjust our budget to reflect what we get from the state and federal government,” Smith said. “They push the mandates and we continue to make adjustments.

“But as much as we’d like to provide services, if we can’t afford them they should be curtailed,” he added.

Allport and Bower suggested departmental cuts, but Callard said the suggestions would involve inconsequential monetary amounts.

Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer, said the New York’s county finance law deals with a legislature’s “failure to make appropriations.” It states that the tentative budget will become the finalized budget by Dec. 20 since no changes have been made to it. Callard added that legislators are involved in the process and are required to sign off on multiple department budgets.

Nesbitt said the result of the vote was not too shocking since raising taxes five percent is an unpopular thing to do. He noted, however, that the county has been in a “cutting mode” for the “better part of the last five years.”

He added, “We’re at a point where the next step of cuts would stop providing services, and what do you stop providing? They are all ones people want.” 

Still, Smith said he spoke to one person and the two wondered, “Why should we vote on it if the tentative budget is going to be the budget anyway? What does that say about the system?”

Callard said a second vote would likely end in favor of the budget as presented since Ken Rush, who was absent Wednesday, has gone on record as being supportive of the budget. Knowing the majority of legislators support the budget makes a second vote “symbolic,” he said.