Cortland County Legislators approved an amended version of the county’s 2022 budget at its meeting on Thursday. It includes an increase in salaries of 2% to department heads and appointed and elected employees, as well as a reduced tax levy.
The adopted budget of $142 million increased county spending, as well as the amount of money in property taxes levied. Approved by a vote of 14-3, legislators Ronald VanDee, Kelly Preston, and Linda Jones voted against it.
County Administrator Rob Corpora recently proposed amendments to the tax levy and the property tax rate per $100,000 in assessed value.
Initially, the county had proposed $37,848,970 levied in taxes. Corpora said the updated rate now sits at $37,728,555. The property tax rate per $1,000 in assessed value went down from $15.85, and now sits at $15.79.
Legislature Minority Leader Beau Harbin (D-LD 2) noted the average tax rate in the county is now sitting under 1 percent. He also noted the budget does not use fund balance money to bridge budget shortfalls.
“We have finally had a solid budget that I have not seen in the years I have been in the legislature,” he said.
Corpora said part of the reduced figures come from updated collective bargaining unit contracts with employees, updates to the New York State retirement lines, and other minor corrections found by Corpora when revisiting the budget.
Two other amendments approved by the legislature also increased salaries to department heads, management employees, management confidential employees, and elected and appointed employees by 2 percent beginning next year. Department heads, management, and management confidential employees currently receive a gradual pay bump of 2 percent depending on the length of their tenure, and this amendment would add another 2 percent on top.
The amendment for elected and appointed employees — which includes the county attorney, public defender veteran’s services officer, commissioner of social services, highway superintendent, personnel officer, public health director, real property and tax services director — also provides that subset of employees with a 2 percent pay increase.
Preston (LD10) noted she did not want to support the budget due to the approved raises. She also noted the budget relies too heavily on sales tax, a figure that has been touted by some legislators as inconsistent.
“We are using a lot of sales tax,” Preston said, noting she would like to see the use of sales tax to further reduce the tax rate. “Let’s use some of that money to give back to the taxpayers.”
Legislator Cathy Bischoff (D-LD 3) praised Corpora’s handling of the budget.
“I believe (Corpora) has done a phenomenal job,” Bischoff said “For many years, this budget had not been able to pass without the use of fund balance. This budget also keeps our tax rate under one percent, and that is thanks to (Corpora).”