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Picente: FY12 Budget Signifies Era Of NYS Tax Cap

Oneida County Executive, Anthony Picente, Jr.
Jeanette Lenoir, WIBX

Utica, NY (WIBX) - Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, Jr., presented his FY2012 budget to the board of legislators–having maintained the 2 percent property tax cap imposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Saying the cap is not an end, but rather a means to achieving fiscal sustainability, Picente said, “It is the vehicle through which all of us here in Oneida County, who are responsible for local budgets, need to re-examine what we do and how we do it. Fiscal sustainability is not going to be possible at all layers of government without radical action to change who delivers services and who pays for them. For 20 years we have been saying that the time will come when we need to change the way government works. That time is here.” Picente says for residents, the budget means that the county will increase property taxes $1.286 million.

In his budget, Picente is proposing a state take over of the cost of Medicaid saying, “Since 2001, Medicaid costs have risen in Oneida County by 49.1 percent, and 98.2 percent of the tax levy increase over that time has been eaten up solely by the mandated cost increases in this one entitlement program.” He goes onto to explain that the Medicaid bill the state is forcing the county to pay puts the county in, “a situation where a county is not the master of its own fiscal house.”

Other suggestions include curtailing funding to public libraries, the Oneida County Public Health Clinic, the Community Wellness Program, the Rome DMV office and the Utica/Rome codes inspection offices. Dr. Gayle Jones, Director of Health, Oneida County Health Department said her office will assess the budget proposal and plan accordingly. “At this time we’re looking at this budget as another method of providing services to the community. What we’ll do is we’ll look at our programs over all and we’ll RFP, [Request For Proposal] out our programs. What we’re encouraging community organizations to do, is to apply to the RFP so that way we can assess what’s out there, and look at each program overall so that these services will still be available,” she said.

The budget also calls for 36 layoffs by the middle of next year, and the consolidation of the Youth Bureau and the Department of Social Services. Frank Tallerino, who represents the 7th legislative district in Rome says he needs more time to go over the budget, but shared these thoughts, “I will fight to maintain full service at the Rome DMV Office.” Tallerino also touched on the proposal to cut jobs. “Some of the positions that are going to be cut–I want to review some of the positions. I didn’t notice any cut in the executive staff of the county executive, and I’d like to see some reduction because of the severe reduction we’ve gone over in the last couple of years—I believe the county executive staff should reduced somewhat. The administrative staff in my view is a little excessive.”

Picente also proposed changing the  structure of funding to Mohawk Valley Community College through the creation of the Community College Assessment Program, (CCAP). The college is currently funded through direct appropriations from the property tax levy. Picente explained that the move, if adopted, would only pay for residents who actually attend the college. “The county will maintain its funding level to MVCC and at the end of the school year well assess to the warrant of each municipality the dollar amount calculated to pay for only its residents who actually attended the college,” he said.

Stephen Roefaro represents the 19th District of South Utica. He says he supports the budget. “The areas that we had to cut, we had to cut. The restructuring of the payment to MVCC, is something that other counties do now. I think it’s something that we tried to avoid for the longest period of time, but we have to do now. The county executive, the people involved in the budget have done a good job with proposing it, and now it’s up to the Legislators to see if we can cut other places to lower the tax levy, but all in all, I support it,” he said.

Oneida County Legislator, Michael Hennessy says he has questions about many of the proposals in the budge, and criticized Picente for his approach constructing the FY12 budget. “He talks about working with others, but I find him to be a very difficult person to work with. My idea of having an internal auditor on staff in Oneida County like any business would of this size–$360 million–have been laughed at. These ideas that are thrown out very intelligently are just batted down by him because they’re not his ideas and he seems to work on his own.” Hennessy goes on to say, “A lot of this I read today was for the most part, boiler plate stuff, but a few things. The real change is that this is the first time I’ve actually ever heard these thoughts ever come out of his office, so that’s why I’m being careful to some degree here in saying that I need more time to understand the change of the funding formula to MVCC.”

Picente said, “This budget has achieved the 2 percent cap on the tax levy. After NYS Equalization rates are computed, this results in an average county tax rate of $9.81 per $1,000 of assessed value. That is an increase of 1.24 percent in the rate. On the average assessment of $71,437.00 home, that is an increase of $8.60.” The next budget hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, October 11.

The details of the FY2012 budget can be accessed right here:

http://ocgov.net/sites/default/files/budget/2012/2012%20Proposed%20Budget.pdf

To read Picente’s address to the county board of legislators click on the link below:

http://ocgov.net/sites/default/files/exec/budget/2012/2012BudgetAddress.pdf

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