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2.95% tax increase with 2013 Oneida County budget

By GARY LIBERATORE

ONEIDA COUNTY, N.Y. (WKTV) - Residents in Oneida County are looking at a 2.95 percent tax increase for the 2013 year, said Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente on Friday as he unveiled his proposed $371 million county budget.

If the budget passes as-is, a home assessed at $71,000 is looking at an increase of $20 a year on their county taxes.

Picente says the reason for the increase can be attributed to numerous factors such as the cost of Medicaid going up $1 million, a state grant for the new Oneida County 911 system which runs out next year and will cost the county $1 million more, along with the cost of paying the pensions of former county workers going up by $4.5 million.

The overall operating budget is up approximately $10 million from $361 million in 2012 to $371 million in 2013 and Picente says there are several factors that are helping keep the proposed tax hike at just 2.95 percent.

"The personnel costs in the Sheriff''s Department reflect a notable achievement by Sheriff Maciol and his management team in reducing overtime in his department while still providing outstanding service. This efficiency has helped us reduce costs this year and allows us to keep them reduced as we move forward," said Picente

Picente says a wage freeze will remain in effect for county workers and a projected three percent increase in sales tax revenue is also helping keep the proposed tax as low as it is.

As part of the proposal, five positions are being eliminated. One of those positions is the County Airport Engineer, while the four others are the County Coroners. The coroners issue is the one that seems to be getting a lot of attention.

In his Friday morning Budget Address, Picente told the county legislators, he has a solution to the coroner issue. He said, "Today, I am pleased to announce the newest regional collaboration of this county. Oneida County will contract with Onondaga County for regional medical examiner services."

Picente says Oneida County would pay Onondaga County about $550,000 next year for all Medical Examiner services, basically the same amount it costs Oneida County now to have four coroners and also hire out its own forensic pathologist to perform autopsies at the St. Elizabeth Medical Center.

Picente said, "They currently provide contract services to Oswego, Cayuga and Madison Counties. I want to thank the many outstanding men who have served as Oneida County Coroners now and over the many years of this system. I believe that the future requires change and that this change will provide what the times demand."

Picente says whether Onondaga County performs 170 autopsies or 240, it's still the same cost. He continued, "At a time when State Government is supporting consolidations and collaborations with fiscal incentives, we believe that this action will be eligible for grant funding in 2013, and we will pursue that funding to provide and even greater value."

The so-called Regional Medical Examiners Agreement would have to be voted on by both the Oneida County Legislature as well as the Onondaga County Legislature.

One thing in this year's budget that remains the same is the limited number of libraries in the county that will receive county aid. Just like last year, only the Utica Public Library, Jervis Public Library in the City of Rome and the mid york library system will receive funding. It's been a few years since the smaller town and village libraries received funding, but with economic times tight, the county executive says they feel they can still do something to help those smaller libraries by continuing to provide aid to Mid-York, which provides services to all those local libraries.

The Oneida County Democratic Committee has nominated a new election commissioner and if approved by the board of legislators, Russell Stewart, from the Town of Marhsall, will take over at the start of the year for Carolann Cardone. Committee Chairmen Mitchell Ford said he wanted to emphasize that he and the committee as a whole thought Cardone "did a tremendous job in the position."

On the Republican side, Rose Grimaldi, the Majority Analyst for the Board of Legislators, was named to take over, and also will have to be approved by the board. Grimaldi would replace Pamela Mandryk.

At the start of the new year there will be a pay cut to the commissioners positions, which will put them both at $65,000 a year.

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