The Putnam Examiner

Putnam Budget Balances Sputtering Economy

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Citing the “anemic state of the economy” and a recent property tax cap as the two major stumbling blocks in this year’s budget process, Putnam County Executive Paul Eldridge unveiled the 2012 tentative budget before legislators, residents and county officials this past Tuesday.

Putnam County Executive Paul Eldridge

Held at the Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services building to better accommodate residents, Eldridge’s proposed budget meeting focused on what the county executive could accomplish amongst a deteriorating economy and pressure from state mandates.

“At the outset of this year’s budget process, I knew that amid the state financial crisis, the newly enacted tax cap and the struggling national economy, one of my most important duties would be to make an already tight county budget even tighter,” Eldridge said.

“With the cooperation of our elected officials, department heads and employees, I believe we have accomplished this.”

Eldridge said due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recently enacted legislation that will cap the state’s property tax at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, the county needed to adapt to a “new tax cap budgeting environment.” The $141 million budget includes a 1.75 tax increase compared with 2011’s budget, a 2.5 percent hike in contributions made by county retirees, no raises for union or managerial employees, and, luckily, zero layoffs.

According to the county’s commissioner of finance William Carlin, the initial budget requests from county departments and outside agencies totaled an 18.86 property tax levy increase— which exceeds the state’s mandate by 16.86 percent. In order to reduce this figure, the county cut 18 full-time positions down to six (three of which are completely funded), executed a higher mortgage tax administration fee and increased retiree contributions—as well as initiated other adjustments and reductions throughout the budget process.

If the budget stands, employees who retired on or before Dec. 31, 2006, will see their contributions increase from 5 to 7.5 percent in 2012, and again to 10 percent in 2013. Those who retired after this date will have a “phased-in” contribution raise by a total of 10 percent from 2012 to 2016.

“This was a difficult but necessary decision to be made, since the end result will be to create significant cost savings for the taxpayers of Putnam County,” Carlin said.

Eldridge stressed the importance of the county’s sales tax, which currently stands at 8.375 percent. According to the 2012 tentative budget, Putnam will generate upwards of $49.83 million next year.

“These revenues are critical to funding the county services that our citizens need and desire,” Carlin said. “It was imperative that the county received an extension of the 4 percent local sales tax rate earlier this year in order to avoid steep increases in property taxes, extreme cuts in county services or a combination of both.”

Despite having the lowest index violent and property crime rates in the state of New York, Eldridge said it was necessary to continue efforts in providing safety to county residents. According to the proposed budget, 33 cents for every real property tax dollar is put toward public safety funding.

“We should never be complacent in Putnam, even though we live a lifestyle and have a crime rate that are very different from the big cities,” Eldridge said. “We feel confident that even thought the 2012 budget is very tight, that the budget, including its contingency for unexpected emergencies, will keep the citizens of Putnam County safe and help maintain the quality of life we have all come to expect.”

The weeks-long approval process will allow legislators to review and potentially modify Eldridge’s proposed budget. A public hearing will be held regarding the budget on Sept. 27 at the Historic Courthouse in Carmel at 7 p.m.


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