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Few speak at Lewis County budget hearing

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LOWVILLE — The silence was deafening at Lewis County’s annual budget hearing Thursday, with only two people making comments.

Randy W. LaLonde, president of the Lowville Free Library board of directors, asked legislators to consider restoring funding to libraries and other contractual agencies, particularly when the economic situation brightens.

“We realize it’s a tough budget time,” Mr. LaLonde said.

The county’s tentative 2013 spending plan would reduce funding for most contractual agencies by 10 percent. That follows a 20 percent cut implemented in this year’s budget.

Libraries and other contractual agencies “do a tremendous amount with limited resources to improve the condition of Lewis County,” Mr. LaLonde said.

He specifically mentioned the Lewis County Historical Society’s annual Home for the Holidays celebration taking place this week and an upcoming six-week arts program at the Lowville library in conjunction with Double Play Sports.

Sheriff Michael P. Carpinelli also spoke briefly after arriving late to the meeting and being prompted by the chairman of the Board of Legislators, Jack T. Bush, R-Brantingham, who was trying to fill time to keep the public hearing open for its required 30 minutes.

“I want to thank the board for working with me so far this year,” the first-year sheriff said.

He also called for more collaboration in the county and a lessening of divisive attitudes.

Legislators plan to adopt their budget at their Dec. 4 meeting. Any changes, including a few minor alterations discussed at a work session Tuesday, would need to be approved by resolution prior to adoption.

The tentative budget would increase the tax levy, or amount to be raised by property taxes, by $772,724, from $12.76 million to $13.53 million. The 6.1 percent increase is essentially the maximum allowable increase under state tax cap legislation, which allows municipalities to exclude some debt service and growth in pension costs from their calculations in the so-called 2 percent cap.

With a 3.2 percent increase in countywide taxable value from $1.83 billion to $1.89 billion, the full-value tax rate would rise by 2.6 percent from $6.99 per $1,000 of true value to $7.17 per $1,000. That would amount to an $18 increase in taxes on a home with a $100,000 true value.

The proposed budget would eliminate four jobs: one of the two full-time county planners; the part-time E-911 clerk at the Sheriff’s Department; and two positions through attrition.

Legislators on Thursday also voted 9-1 to approve raises for eight appointed, nonunion employees at the same percentages as union workers, with Legislator Charles R. Fanning, R-Copenhagen, opposed.

They also set a public hearing for 5 p.m. Dec. 4 on the proposed reapportionment of county legislative districts and created seven temporary part-time positions at the Sheriff’s Department for winter recreation patrols.

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