COOPERSTOWN – Today started with bad news for Otsego County’s 14 representatives and ended with worse.
When the county board’s May meeting convened at 10 a.m. via Zoom, the county reps thought they were struggling with an $11 million deficit from coronavirus-related cuts. When it end, that had doubled to $22 million, double the county’s property tax levy.
To keep current levels of service, the property tax levy – and hence the tax rate – would have to be doubled.
The discussion was focusing on whether to freeze one promotion and two potential hires in the Department of Social Services when County Treasurer Allen Ruffles looked up from his cell phone.
“I just got the latest from NYSAC,” the state Association of Counties, he said.
It included a worst-case scenario, a 50 percent cut in sales and bed tax revenues, and reimbursements from the State of New York, amounting to $11 million. “It could be even worse,” said Ruffles, quoting the new report.
COOPERSTOWN – Perhaps 50 county employees, perhaps as many as 80, will have to be laid off to balance this year’s budget, county Budget Review Committee chair Don Lindberg, R-Worcester, said today.
“But I can’t see this board doing it,” he said.
While not foreseeing cuts to the extent Lindberg does, both county Board Chair Kathy Clark, R-Otego, and Treasurer Dan Crowell acknowledged layoffs as a possibility.
The three were commenting after Lindberg’s Budget Review Committee pared a $9.2 million budget gap. The county budget gap now stands at $4.3 million, down from $9.2 million. Today, the Budget Review Committee made a significant cut of $700,000 to the Department of Social Services.
“There is not a strong desire to do it,” said Crowell. “We will do everything possible to avoid it, but we will do it if we have to.”
“At this point I don’t know how we close a $4.3 million gap,” said Clark. “We’ll see what people are willing to vote on, but some employees might have to go from full to part-time.”