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Lewis County budget approved

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LOWVILLE — The Lewis County Board of Legislators on Tuesday adopted a $52.5 million budget for 2014 that will increase taxes as the county spends more for equipment and relies less on pulling money from its fund balance.

The levy, or the amount to be raised by taxes, will be $14,572,267 — a 7.7 percent increase from this year. The tax rate will be 7.59 per $1,000 of true value, an increase of 42 cents from this year’s rate. The fiscal year starts Jan. 1.

Next year’s total budget of $52,492,499 is $979,819 more than this year’s planned spending.

The increase, according to legislators, is a result of three factors.

Because of previous spending of the fund balance, legislators agreed its use was no longer sustainable. They are appropriating $900,000 less from the fund balance than in 2013.

The budget includes a $291,000 increase in the capital equipment fund for the purchase of new vehicles for the highway, trails and sheriff’s departments.

The county anticipates a decrease in revenues in several departments because of changes in state regulations or the state of the economy.

Legislator Jerry H. King, R-West Leyden, cast the sole no vote. Legislators Paul M. Stanford, D-Watson, and Richard C. Lucas, R-Barnes Corners, were absent.

Mr. King said his objection was with Lewis County General Hospital’s separate budget of $64.8 million. The county owns the hospital, which has had to borrow heavily from the county in the past when its revenues failed to meet projections.

“That’s my biggest concern,” Mr. King said. “If they don’t get the revenues they say, the taxpayers can’t foot the bill for them any more than they already have.”

The increase for the hospital’s expenditures in 2014 is $3,210,455, or 5 percent.

The sole resident to speak during the public comment period was Michael K. Leviker, Lewis County sheriff’s deputy. He asked legislators to consider adding to the budget funds to purchase a snowmobile for patrols of sled trails.

“We are number one in the state for snowmobile accidents,” he said.

Describing two serious accidents last season, Mr. Leviker said Lewis County patrols on snowmobiles were the first responders on the scene. To protect riders on the trails, he said, “We’ve worked hard. We don’t want to lose that grip.”

Currently, the department has three sleds, down from a former fleet of seven. The newest sled was purchased in 2008.

Legislators did not consider adding the item, instead discussing a sled donation now in the works.

The budget includes a $291,000 increase in the capital equipment fund for the highway, trails and sheriff’s departments for the purchase of new vehicles.

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