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Sun., Dec. 21
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St. Lawrence County legislators carve away at tax increase

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CANTON — The prospective St. Lawrence County tax increase stood at about 14.5 percent after a budget review session Tuesday during which legislators approved cuts in contributions to some of its partner agencies and made other reductions.

The tentative budget projected a tax levy increase of 20 percent.

Legislator Alex A. MacKinnon, R-Fowler, called on the outside agencies to defend their funding to property owners fed up with paying for increased taxes.

“Please don’t forget to say ‘thank you’ for raising my taxes. The bulk of the money goes to good programs,’” Mr. MacKinnon said. “I need your support too.”

After listening to supporters speak about the benefits provided by the county Chamber of Commerce and Soil & Water Conservation District, legislators approved 10 percent cuts for the agencies. The county Industrial Development Agency, which is entering the last year of a three-year contract, offered reduced funding of $400,000 annually in return for a new three-year contract that starts in 2013. The IDA’s original contract called for it to receive $475,000 next year, but the county had planned on offering it less in keeping with the 10 percent across-the-board other cuts.

The IDA is also funded by the River Valley Redevelopment Agency, has revenue from building leases, interest, and fees and hopes to make up a gap of about $200,000 with increased projects, Executive Director Patrick J. Kelly said.

The new contract would give the IDA stability in the coming years to put the burden on itself to improve economic development, he said.

“I think we’re on the right path,” he said. “We are in the execution phase.”

Debbie A. Christy, the trails coordinator hired earlier this year, was approved for a second year at a 10 percent reduction. Her plan is also to become self-sustaining through grants and trail fees and she told legislators she hoped not to return for another round of funding.

“The trail coordinator position is extremely important to the county,” Chamber of Commerce Director Patricia L. McKeown said. “This should be a tourism effort. The Chamber lauds this.”

Cooperative Extension, which needs local support to receive other government funding, was also approved for next year at a 10 percent drop.

“Without county support, our legal basis for existence ceases,” Extension Director Patrick T. Ames said.

The tentative budget dropped the county Historical Association from any funding but Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire said that was a mistake and it was restored with a 10 percent cut.

“I don’t consider any of these things luxuries,” Legislator Anthony J. Arquiett, D-Helena, said.

The county’s 19 libraries had its supporters as well to restore about $100,000 in funding for next year, but no one on the board acted to include them in the budget.

Legislators also cut in half the amount allotted for computer upgrades, but may roll IT purchases over to a future capital project that would include roof repairs, and eliminated money set aside for excess liability.

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