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Essex County budget below the tax cap

November 28, 2019
By ELIZABETH IZZO - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

Essex County's proposed 2020 budget comes below the state tax cap.

The tentative $107.6 million spending plan includes a property tax levy of 2.17%, from $23 million to $23.5 million. That increase falls below the adjusted tax cap set for the county of 2.59%.

The county plans to use property tax revenue to fund nearly a quarter of its expenses next year. The rest would come from state and federal aid, $2.1 million from fund balance reserves and more than $82 million in projected revenue.

Although this could change, the tax rate is expected to be $3.32 per $1,000 in assessed value, county Manager Dan Palmer said at a meeting of the county Board of Supervisors' Finance Committee last week. That rate would represent 3 cent increase per $1,000 over this year. For a person whose home is assessed at $100,000, this would mean a tax increase of around $3.

One notable proposed change in the budget next year: The Essex County District Attorney's Office has requested $106,136 for two new positions related to changes spurred by the passing of new discovery laws by the state Legislature this year. As part of a new law, district attorneys are required to hand over evidence to the defense within 15 days of a defendant's first court appearance, according to the New York Times. In the past, prosecutors were able to withhold that evidence until before a trial.

"The district attorney's budget is up a fairly high percentage, but that's driven by the discovery laws and the request of the DA to add two positions to that to kind of deal with those issues," Palmer said last week.

The county Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on the tentative 2020 budget on Nov. 25. There was no public comment. The budget is expected to appear on the board's agenda for its regular meeting on Dec. 3. The county has until Dec. 20 to adopt a budget for next year, according to the state Comptroller's Office.

As of 2018, Essex County had a fiscal stress score of 0.0 out of 100 from the state Comptroller's Office, putting the county solidly in the "no designation" category, the least serious. Fiscal stress scores are calculated based on a formula that takes into account a variety of factors, including available general fund balance and fixed costs like debt payments and employee benefits. The county's score shows that as of last year, the county had a healthy fund balance, manageable debt service when compared to total revenue, and a minimal operating deficit.

The county's full tentative 2020 spending plan is available for view online at under "latest notices."



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