CANTON — When St. Lawrence County Legislative Chairman Joseph R. Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg, asked who would second the passing of the 2020 budget during Monday night’s County Board meeting, all legislators raised their hands.
The unanimously passed $253,141,829 budget came following a public hearing during which no one from the public spoke.
But given the chance for discussion, several legislators celebrated County Administrator Ruth A. Doyle and her staff for working on the budget.
“I would just like to thank the staff all across the county for stepping up,” Anthony J. Arquiett, D-Helena, said. “We continue to, year after year, ask department heads, workers, the whole staff, to do more with less. We are tasked with providing a lot of services ... all while providing most of the same essential services that we have, and we’re able to do it without raising taxes.”
Property owners in St. Lawrence County will not be making any changes in their county property tax rates under the new budget, which also increases the number of full-time employees and allocates $10.8 million more for highway projects.
With the passing of the 2020 budget, the tax levy will increase by $1.28 million, from $47,783,962 to $49,077,286, reflecting how much will be collected from property tax payers next year.
Despite the tax levy increase, the true-value tax rate will remain at $8.28 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
“The budget was a stroke of genius,” Mr. Lightfoot said. “I think you saw a unanimous vote by the board to recognize that, and it does most of what we would like to see done with respect to fund balance and how we are funding that, but you can’t have everything all of the time. It stays at (last year’s) tax rate, that’s six years in a row that it hasn’t gone up, and we relied on an increase in the levy, which was due to assessments to fund other things that we needed to.”
Mrs. Doyle thanked the board “for another unanimous budget,” telling them there was a busy year ahead.
The goal of the annual budget is to meet the Legislature’s goal of returning 1 percent of the budget, approximately $2.5 million, following the close of the year, Mrs. Doyle said.
From that amount the county will use $1.5 million toward expenses, 0.61 percent of the $2.5 million, marking the first time since 2012 that a portion of the fund balance is being appropriated.
“I look forward to working with department heads to work within that budget,” she said. “You know next year is going to be a very impactful year with all of the changes coming in legislation, and we’ll work very diligently to do our best to stay ahead of those and the impact they have on our budget.”