Tax rate to drop 2 cents per $1,000
BY KEVIN BONESKE
After twice voting down a per diem increase for supervisors who will be elected next April, rejecting then approving a $2,000 annual salary increase for the County Board chairman and restoring $6,000 in funding for the county fair, the Oneida County Board approved the tax levy for the 2018 budget at Tuesday’s meeting.
The levy approved by all 19 supervisors present for the vote came to $16,332,618, an increase of $111,401 from the previous year.
County finance director Darcy Smith noted the majority of the levy increase, $98,641, is the increase allowed based on new construction in the county, while the increases not subject to levy limits include $11,829 for library services and another $931 for emergency medical services in the county.
When factoring in the latest annual increase of nearly $105 million that raises the county’s equalized property value to more than $6.829 billion, Smith said the county’s property tax rate for the levy comes to $2.39 per $1,000, which is a decrease of 2 cents for $1,000 from the previous year.
In addition to the property tax levy, Smith said $4.4 million is being budgeted for projected revenue from the county’s half-percent sales tax. She also noted nearly $1.5 million is being taken out of the general fund balance, for which the county’s undesignated portion was more than $13.2 million at the end of last year, with $250,000 to be used for operations and another $1,241,062 for capital improvement projects in 2018.
Smith said total revenues and expenditures for the 2018 county budget each total $47,267,601. Though that is a decrease of more than $6 million from the 2017 amended budget, she noted the reductions are mostly due to the implementation of Family Care with money for that from the state no longer going to the county.
As proposed by the county’s Administration Committee, the 2018 budget had included a per diem increase of $5 per meeting for supervisors who will be elected to new two-year terms in April. The fiscal impact statement with the related resolution, which also called for an annual salary increase for the County Board chairman, projected the additional per diem cost for next year at $5,414.38.
However, the resolution required a two-thirds majority to pass – at least 14 out of the 21 supervisors voting in favor – and came two votes short of approval with only 12 votes in support, eight supervisors opposed and one absent.
The debate about whether to increase the pay for supervisors made reference to supervisors previously receiving $5 more per diem before that was reduced in 2012 because of budgets constraints.
“Restoring it back to where it was in effect in 2012, I know I’m very confident that as I go about and talk to my constituents that they’ll believe that we do indeed deserve a little increase for all the hard work (we do for) our citizens of Oneida County,” said supervisor Robb Jensen.
Had the increase passed, it would have raised the per diem for supervisors from $70 to $75 for each County Board meeting and from $40 to $45 for each committee meeting.
Supervisor Alan Van Raalte urged supervisors to oppose the pay increase for supervisors, questioning whether the proposed hike was “cost-effective.”
“I don’t know what the cost-benefit ratio is,” Van Raalte said. “I’m not really sure (how) to calculate one, since, in my opinion, the benefit portion of this equation, at least to our constituents, is virtually zero.
“With the other challenges we face in the county, I think this money could be better spent elsewhere. For example, the Fair Committee’s budget request was cut by $6,000, and this was done at a time when the fair needs to hire a new coordinator and find a new president…”
After supervisors approved restoring the $6,000 in funding for the county fair to keep the support for next year at $16,000 – the same allocation as for 2017 – with supervisor Billy Fried casting the lone dissenting vote, all 20 supervisors present then voted in favor increasing the County Board chairman’s annual salary from $3,600 to $5,600.
However, only $1,033 remained to use out of $7,033 that had been initially budgeted for increasing both the County Board chairman’s salary and supervisors’ per diems. Because of the additional cost next year of $1,618.65 for the County Board chairman’s salary increase that takes effect in April, and the tax levy set to the maximum allowed, supervisors agreed to take the $586 difference out of the contingency fund.
Another attempt was made by supervisors to increase their meeting per diem by $5, but that vote also failed without a two-thirds majority. Supervisors then ended their deliberations on the 2018 budget by approving the tax levy.