Oneida County Board: Armored rescue truck, humane society and fair discussed at annual budget meeting
The Oneida County budget for the 2015 calendar year is $50,373,410. Wednesday night the county board of supervisors approved a budget that left the county $116,000 under the tax levy limit.
The tax levy limit is the highest amount the board is allowed to tax the county. For several years the board has stayed under this limit.
The overall budget will decrease after this year, down by around $2.5 million. However, the budget has actually gone up from 2013, when it was barely over $49 million.
Last minute changes were made at the budget meeting, notably the return of a $5,000 cut in the budget of the Oneida County Humane Society and the same for a $4,000 cut of the Oneida County Fair budget.
When the representative from the OCHS asked who in the crowd was in support of the Humane Society, nearly all of the approximately 70 onlookers raised their hands.
“In 2013 alone, OCHS took in 748 animals, and facilitated 557 adoptions. Sixty-three stray animals were reunited with their owners in 2013 as well,” said Maggie Hogan, OCHS board member. “Thus far in 2014, OCHS has taken 664 animals, has facilitated 393 adoptions, and has reunited 102 pets with their original owners.”
The supervisors passed the motion to restore their budget unanimously.
The Oneida County Fair budget was restored with a vote of 16 aye and 2 no after Nancy Gehrig spoke on the Fair’s behalf.
“At this time, I really don’t feel that the fair is self-sustainable,” Gehrig said. “It’s one of the biggest community events, that draws the most people downtown.”
The original cut came from a previous hearing, where fair representatives stated they had around $14,000 in funds leftover from the 2014 fair—a number that didn’t last through the year. Now Gehrig says they are down to only about $3,000 in their accounts after paying late bills, and need the $4,000 from the county to pay for fair infrastructure.
The board also voted to take $60,000 out of the general fund and apply it toward the tax levy, in an attempt to lower the county tax rate for 2015.
Practically, the budget that was finalized put the tax rate at $2.32 per $1,000, a 1 cent increase from last year.
Without the $60,000, citizens would have been looking at a 2 cent per $1,000 increase, instead of just one. However, this move goes against auditor recommendations, which oppose using general funds for operating expenditures.
The motion passed 13-5.
Possibly the most controversial issue was a motion to cut the $100,000 expenditure toward a new armored rescue vehicle for the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department. The motion was voted down, and Oneida County will soon be purchasing a new rescue vehicle.
Sheriff Grady Hartman spoke before the board on the topic, elaborating on a grant from Homeland Security in the amount of $114,000 toward a new vehicle.
“There are significant technological improvements to the new one,” Sheriff Harman said. “Does this make the one we have obsolete? No.”
Hartman said that while the current rescue vehicle was perfectly capable of fulfilling their needs, it would have to be replaced in about four to five years regardless.
The opportunity to apply grant money toward the purchase isn’t something Hartman believes will come around again, which was a major factor in the supervisors’ deliberations.
The grant was also contingent upon the sale of the department’s current vehicle for no less than $61,000.
During the public hearing section of the budget meeting, two citizens spoke on their concerns of what they believed was a “militarized vehicle.” Sheriff Hartman emphasized that the vehicle was not a militarized vehicle, but a defensive unit used to protect officers against armed assailants.
The budget was approved unanimously by 17 supervisors. Three supervisors were absent during the consideration of the 2015 budget, and four were absent during the final budget approval vote.
The next board meeting will be on Jan. 20, at 9:30 a.m..