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Sullivan County Legislature passes budget

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Albany/HV: Sullivan County Legislature passes budget
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After weeks of controversy surrounding the proposed 13.8 percent increase in Sullivan County's property tax levy, the Legislature passed its 2013 budget late Thursday night. Our Eva McKend was at the government center and has more on the vote.

MONTICELLO, N.Y. -- After hours of deliberation, far passed the scheduled time, the Sullivan County Legislature voted to pass their 2013 budget. The much discussed proposed 13.8 percent increase in the county's property tax levy was knocked down to 8.9 percent. With a 6 to 3 vote, not all legislators were happy with the outcome.

Sullivan County Legislator Cindy Gieger said, "I feel that we could have done much better for the taxpayer. We weren't there yet. It was irresponsible in light of the fact that we have such a high number of home foreclosures and people struggling out there."

Legislator Cora Edwards says though she would have preferred a different process with legislators having the opportunity to vote by line item rather than by block, she says the final tax increase, spread out over several years, is justified.

Edwards said, "I think what the 8.9 percent number reflects is that over the last three budget years, there was absolutely no increase for inflation whatsoever. So if you look at it over a three-year average, then you are coming in at three percent every year."

The tough decisions made to tighten the budget included reducing funding to some agencies, including Sullivan ARC - a non profit that supports the developmentally disabled and their families.

Jim Krueger, Sullivan ARC Chief Financial Officer, said, "I can't stop paying electricity so it really translates into loss jobs potentially and for the amount of figures that I'm looking at, you know it could be up to two or three positions."

The elephant in the room was that earlier this week Cora Edwards and legislator Gene Benson called for the removal of County Manager David Fanslau. Though in the government center, Fanslau was not present in the chambers for the vote. Legislators discussed not renewing his contract, but at this time there were not six legislators willing to do so - the amount required for a super majority vote.

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