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St. Lawrence County Legislator Fred Morrill.
St. Lawrence County Legislator Fred Morrill.

St. Lawrence County legislator proposes steep cuts

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Budget leaders in St. Lawrence County are considering some steep cuts to prevent a 20 percent property tax increase. The tax hike proposed by county administrator Karen St. Hilaire last week would raise $9.3 million.

Democratic legislator Fred Morrill of DeKalb Junction wants to cut $7 million from that plan. He's chair of the finance committee, and is offering an alternate budget. Among other things, it eliminates the Sheriff's Road Patrol, and cuts the highway department.

Morrill says things like police protection and maintaining bridges are not necessarily the county's responsibility.

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Julie Grant
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"Yes, they are essential, but they’re not mandated. So we’ve got to decide between this high property tax increase of 19 to 20 percent, or finding a way to get that property tax increase down to a reasonable amount."

Morrill says the county has limited control over its own budget because the state mandates certain services. Of those mandates, health insurance costs are reportedly up $6 million, and pension costs are up $5 million in the past five years.

Morrill says the County needs to cut from what it has control over – things like the Sheriff’s office, community services, and the office of the aging.

"I’m not saying I support each and every one of these cuts. It’ll be hard for me to vote for some of these. What I would urge is that if something is important to the citizens of St. Lawrence County to let us know. Let your legislator know, whether it’s me or anyone else. What I have heard is from the taxpayers, and they do not consider 19 to 20 percent to be reasonable."

Meanwhile, efforts to raise money in other ways have gained some momentum. St. Lawrence County has long complained while other counties have the authority to raise their sales tax, it does not. Senator Joseph Griffo has recently expressed his support. He’s said if voters approve, St. Lawrence County should be able to raise its sales tax.

 

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