County tax rate expected to drop


By David Avitabile

The tax rate for many Schoharie County property owners could drop by more than 1.5 percent, according to the spending plan introduced Tuesday by Treasurer Bill Cherry.
The $71.7 million budget proposed for 2014 drops the average county-wide tax rate from $8.56 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $8.43 per $1,000, a decrease of 1.52 percent, according to Mr. Cherry.
This does not mean that every property owner in the county will see a tax decrease, Mr. Cherry noted.
Because of differences in the equalization rates in the 16 towns in the county, the tax rates changes will differ. The tax rates in 14 of the 16 towns will decrease according to the current spending plan. The tax rates range from a decrease of 8.64 percent in the Town of Fulton to an increase of 10.98 in Gilboa. The only other increase is in the Town of Conesville.
Though the tax rates could decline in the county, the actual amount to be collected through taxes, the tax levy, may increase by $370,033, a hike of 1.98 percent. No override of the state-imposed tax cap is necessary, Mr. Cherry explained since, based on the state comptroller's office calculations and exemptions under the tax cap regulations, the county could pass a budget with a tax levy hike of up to $632,558 without needing to override the cap.
The rates are down despite the increase in the levy because the taxable values of property in the county increased by 3.5 percent for 2014, Mr. Cherry explained.
Spending is down by $6 million mostly because of the lessening impact of the stream bank stabilization project, which will be winding down in 2014, according Mr. Cherry.
Two important additions have been made in the spending plan while maintaining a healthy fund balance, Mr. Cherry noted.
For 2014, a proposed non-union salary schedule has been developed which directly ties the no-union salaries to the grades and steps in the CSEA union salary schedule, according to Mr. Cherry.
Over the past five years, he explained, CSEA employees have seen salaries increase by about 17 percent while non-union workers and department heads have seen their salaries increase by about 2.5 percent. The difference has created a disparity of some department heads and union employees they supervise and between union and non-union employee salaries.
The budget proposal will use $621,000 from the fund balance, keeping the fund balance at about $6.76 million, close to the optimum 10 percent figure $7.2 million, Mr. Cherry added.
To help for scheduled paving, road maintenance and bridge construction projects during 2014, Mr. Cherry noted that it is proposed that $1.31 million if the county road fund balance be used to supplement the $7.1 million already being appropriated for next year's highway work.
The budget now goes to the finance committee and then to the county board.