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It’s tough times. Some of the services that aren’t mandated, unfortunately, we’re going to have to reduce — and possibly cut staff.

Essex County gets to work on Irene-stalled budget

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Work on Essex County's budget for next year was another victim of Tropical Storm Irene.

Board chairman Randy Douglas says that budget negotiations were "put on the wayside" while supervisors and county officials were kept busy overseeing repairs and clean-up efforts. But that will change soon. Martha Foley reports.

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Work on Essex County’s budget for next year was another victim of Tropical Storm Irene.

Board chairman Randy Douglas says that budget negotiations were “put on the wayside” while  supervisors and county officials were kept busy overseeing repairs and clean-up efforts.

But that should change in the coming days, Douglas said Monday.

“I assume that very shortly — within the next two weeks — we’ll be really pushing forward,” he said.

Douglas said the county is still putting together estimates on next year’s budget. He declined to offer any specifics, but he said the fiscal outlook is “not pretty.”

“It’s a tough time for me to make comments about the state of New York, because they’ve been so hopeful during this time of our need,”

he said. “But the 2 percent tax cap is tough on us when you reduce funding of state aid.”

Department heads are currently putting together preliminary budgets.

From there, supervisors will have to decide whether to increase taxes or reduce services, Douglas said.

“It’s tough times,” he said. “Some of the services that aren’t mandated, unfortunately, we’re going to have to reduce — and possibly cut staff.”

According to Douglas, county Manager Dan Palmer sent out letters to agencies that contract with Essex County in hopes of finding out how THEIR fund balances look.

“I’ve asked for specific language, because we dipped in ours quite often over the last seven years,” Douglas said. “I want to make sure that if they’re sitting on a healthy fund balance, that they need to share a little bit of that with us if we’re going to continue contracting with them.”

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