CANTON The St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce is urging its members to attend the Board of Legislatorss public hearing on overriding the 2 percent property tax cap to tell lawmakers what they think is important to fund.
I cant think of all the things they would eliminate if they went with the 2 percent cap, Chamber Executive Director Patricia L. McKeown said. Weve asked our membership to come out and talk. They need to weigh in on this.
The Chamber mailed postcards framed with a black border to members telling them to voice their opinions on the county budget at 5 p.m. Aug. 29 at the County Courthouse.
The county Legislature is considering a 2 percent property tax cap. If they agree on 2 percent, funding would be eliminated for many services and all outside agencies including the Industrial Development Agency, Cooperative Extension, libraries and the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, Ms. McKeown wrote on the postcard. They need to hear from us. Will you join me?
County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire has warned legislators that the 2012 budget is facing a shortfall of up to $15 million and that taxes could rise 9.5 percent to 15.5 percent.
She has suggested cutting $1.5 million from road and bridge work, $2.6 million from positions not filled and removed from the budget, $500,000 from the Sheriffs Department and $450,000 from three days of furlough for all employees. Among the departments and programs that could be hurt are the Youth Department, Planning Office, home health care and drug dependency services.
This Chamber does not want hundreds of people unemployed, Ms. McKeown said. We are not a Third World country. We deserve services.
Any scenario other than a stripped-down budget would require legislators to override the states 2 percent property tax increase, which it could do after a public hearing and with approval by nine legislators.
Ms. McKeown said she would have preferred for legislators to build a budget they felt was responsible rather than frightening employees and outside agencies that their funding could be eliminated.
Every year, the Chamber has to justify its importance as an economic development agency but still faces perennial cutbacks in funding, she said.
If were cut to zero with this 2 percent, Im going to lock my doors and say, gone fishing, Ms. McKeown said.