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"Awful budget" complete and in hands of legislators, includes 70 layoffs

By JOLEEN FERRIS

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - After one deadline extension, the Oneida County 2011 proposed budget is finally complete and in the hands of county legislators. But the end of the long, painstaking process has brought no relief to the county executive who crafted the document.

"It's an awful budget from every perspective. I don't think anybody can look at this budget and be pleased with it and I understand that but it's the reality of what we're facing, the times that we're facing," says Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, Jr. The budget proposal includes 70 layoffs. The bulk, 35 jobs, are in social services. Public works will see 16 jobs cut and the Oneida County Sheriff's Department road patrol and corrections will lose a combined total of 13 positions.

Organizations were not immune to the budget axe. The Utica Zoo will see its county funding cut by $24,000; Mohawk Valley Edge and Cornell Cooperative Extension will see their funding cut by $25,000 each. Others, not so lucky. Both the CNY Community Arts Council and Utica Monday Night have had their county funding eliminated.

On the rise, however, are property taxes. A hike of 4.3% means an extra $37 a year to a home assessed at $100,000; another $26 a year for the average home, which is assessed at roughly $70,000 in the county.

Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle are sympathetic with, not judgemental of, the county executive who made the cuts.

"It's very tough to lay people off especially your own employees when we've had such a bad month with layoffs all over the county however right now the budget is so tight and so hard we really don't have any choice in the matter," says Legislative Minority Leader Patty Hudak.

"All along, many of us have felt this was going to be probably one of the most difficult budgets that we've seen in our entire legislative careers," says Majority Leader David Wood.

County Executive Picente's budget proposal for 2011 also carries a $.30 surcharge on all cell phones and a $.70 surcharge on all landlines.

The legislature, which is made up of 18 Republicans and 11 Democrats, will vote on the budget November 10th.

There will be two public hearings before that: one at 7pm, November 8th at the county courthouse in Rome; and one at 7pm November 9th at the legislative chambers of the county building in Utica. Picente has said he will veto any changes legislators make that would increase his proposed 4.3% property tax increase.

 

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