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Sullivan County Outlays Up $600K

Newport — County commissioners will present a $29.8 million proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 at a public hearing next Monday .

If the Sullivan County delegation of state representatives approves the spending plan as recommended, county officials anticipate a 3 cent increase in the respective tax rates for the 15 communities in Sullivan County. Three cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation on a property assessed at $200,000 is equal to an increase of $6 in annual property taxes.

County Administrator Jesse Levine said after $1.5 million is deducted from the current year’s $30.7 million budget for the one-time expense and revenue associated with the new biomass plant, proposed spending is up nearly $600,000.

However, the amount to be raised by taxes is increasing just $128,000 because the county is tapping some of its surplus funds to lessen the impact.

The budget increase includes $709,000 in 13 separate capital projects which would be paid for using the county’s fund balance.

These projects include $325,000 for paving at the county complex in Unity and $210,000 for a new roof on the Stearns administration building in Unity.

In an interview last week, Levine said the decision this year to go out to bid for health insurance for county employees resulted in a decrease in projected premiums of 40 percent.

The new coverage raised the deductibles from $500 for a single plan and $1,500 for a family plan to $3,000 and $9,000 respectively.

Levine said the union accepted the new coverage, and the county will pay for the additional deductible costs above the previous coverage.

“Even with that, premiums will drop 40 percent,” Levine said. “That reduces the taxpayer subsidy for the nursing home by about $1.5 million.”

Also affecting the budget is the annual “transfer” which is done each year to cover the anticipated reimbursement shortfall for Medicaid and Medicare patients for the nursing home. In the current year that figure is $1.9 million but for next year, primarily because of the sharp reduction in health care premiums, that transfer falls to a little more than $300,000.

“It is a combination of the health insurance (premium) drop and on the revenue side, a slight increase in the bed rate, which will bring in more revenue,” Levine said.

The grants furnished to different social services agencies total $186,000, an increase of $4,500.

Monday’s public hearing begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Sugar River Valley Technical Center in Claremont.