By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
FONDA -- Montgomery County's tentative 2013 budget was amended Tuesday to reinstate cuts to services and outside agencies, and the tax levy increase was reduced to about 2 percent.
It took about $250,000 in extra fund balance to get the budget there, in addition to the $1.34 million originally allocated by Treasurer Shawn Bowerman to offset layoffs in his tentative plan.
Bowerman said the extra use will leave the county with between $4 million and $4.5 million in its reserves for next year.
"I think I can live with it," Bowerman said. "But I still think we have to continue to work toward a balanced plan that reduces our reliance on fund balance."
It appears the dissolution of the county's health insurance trust also created some wiggle room in the county's spending plan, as the creation of a new health insurance fund introduced an approximate extra $400,000 that was split to reduce the levy increase from 3 percent to 2 percent, the other half dedicated toward the fund balance.
Cornell Cooperative Extension, Office for Aging and the Soil & Water Conservation District were allocated funding that will keep services at current levels.
Without it, programs would have been decimated, and staff laid off, agency directors reported.
"I have a staff person waiting for my phone call as soon as I get out of here," conservation district Director Corey Nellis said after the meeting. "It would have been a real loss to the county. We do an awful lot, and there's no doubt the supervisors recognized that tonight."
Cornell Cooperative Extension interim Executive Director Brian T. Gilchrist said the agency's agricultural and nutrition programming would have been eliminated without the county's allocation.
"For every dollar we receive from the county, it creates $4 in corridor funding from the state and federal government, so our partnership with the county is so crucial."
The tentative plan's tax levy is now about $244,104 below the state-imposed property tax cap, but tax increases are anticipated in all townships except Canajoharie and the city of Amsterdam.
It will be the highest for taxpayers in St. Johnsville.
Minden Supervisor Thomas Quackenbush tried to amend the amount of fund balance used to keep the levy flat, but only he, Florida Supervisor William Strevy, and Amsterdam 5th Ward Supervisor Michael Chiara voted for it, and the motion failed.
"If it was adding to the economic health of the county by not spending fund balance, I'd go back to St. Johnsville and tell the people 'This is the way it is, and it helped the county out,'" said St. Johnsville Supervisor Dominick Stagliano. "I'm not going to vote for it when I spent all night trying not to spend any fund balance at all."
The restorations includes funds for equipment repairs, construction and supplies that Department of Public Works Commissioner Paul Clayburn said would be necessary to keep up the county's infrastructure.
It also includes money necessary to keep the county's demolition services alive. Clayburn said there haven't been any demolition projects yet this year, but the city of Amsterdam has requested five projects that Clayburn expected would start before year's end.
"We shouldn't be in the demolition business," said Stagliano, who voted against the increase with Chiara, Strevy, Quackenbush and Amsterdam 2nd Ward Supervisor Jeff Stark. The motion still passed.
The Board of Supervisors scheduled the public hearing on the $92 million budget on Dec. 18 at 6:30 p.m. in its chambers at the county office building on Broadway in Fonda. The supervisors are expected to adopt the plan after the hearing, though the plan can still be amended at the board's discretion before it's passed.