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Sullivan County Budget Vote on Tuesday

Newport — At Tuesday’s County Convention of state Representatives, a proposed county budget of $29.35 million will be discussed and voted on by the delegation.

Though the proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is down nearly 10 percent, County Administrator Greg Chanis said the decrease is somewhat misleading because the $3.2 million biomass project for the county complex in Unity is not included for the next fiscal year on the expense and revenue sides of the budget.

With that project not factored in, next year’s spending plan is about $44,000 more than this year.

The initial budget proposed by the county commissioners had an estimated increase in taxes for the 13 county towns of more than $400,000. However that figure now stands at a decrease of around $7,000 because of changes on the revenue side and a lower increase in health insurance costs than was first estimated in the commissioners’ budget, Chanis said.

When the Executive Finance Committee of delegates reviewed the budget, it increased the amount the of the fund balance the commissioners recommended be used to offset taxes from $400,000 to $450,000. Additionally, the committee added $250,000 to the estimated “ProShare” figure the county receives from the federal government each year, bringing the ProShare amount to $1,750,000.

ProShare constitutes the federal money the county receives for nursing home care, Chanis said. In the last few years, the county has received $1 million initially and later a supplemental ProShare of about the same amount.

For next year, the supplemental amount is uncertain, Chanis said, so the commissioners put that figure at $500,000. The Executive Finance Committee raised it to $750,000.

“The Executive Finance Committee was interested in keeping the tax burden level so it increased revenue,” Chanis said, pointing out that the amount taken from the fund balance is $150,000 less than the $600,000 used last year.

Overall, the increase on the revenue side of the proposed budget by $300,000 and the smaller health insurance increase had the effect of nearly eliminating any tax increase for next year, Chanis said.

“It was pretty straightforward this year,” Chanis said about the budget. “The county continues to be fortunate to have a healthy fund balance.”

Last year the fund balance was around $4.2 million and even with the budgeted uses for the 2013-14 budget, Chanis said he expects it to be in the same range when the fiscal year ends.

Three areas of the budget — health insurance, retirement and salary and benefits — were the big tickets items that saw significant increases next year. Grants received by the county are estimated to decrease 36 percent or about $246,000 for next year, however the spending side for those grants decreases by the same amount so there is no tax rate impact.

To compensate for the spending increases, Chanis said there were adjustments made throughout the budget by the commissioners.

“They made a bunch of small to medium adjustments,” the county administrator said.

Property taxes are set by the state in the fall based on property values as of April 1. If those values change in any one town, residents there could see a slight increase or decrease in their county tax bill, Chanis said. “If nothing changes in the property values then taxes won’t change,” he added.

Tuesday’s convention begins at 6 p.m. in the Sugar River Bank Community Room on Main Street.

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