HERKIMER, N.Y. - For 2018, Herkimer County taxpayers can expect a tax increase of .79 percent for a budget of over $101 million dollars.
For county legislators, getting the tax rate under a one percent increase is considered a success.
"I feel anytime we can get under one percent, we are doing an awfully great job, especially in these times," Patrick Russell, chair of the Ways and Means committee said.
County legislators also point to an additional $2 million in CHIPS funding for roadwork and extra revenue from casinos as positive aspects of the budget.
As the county's budget officer explains, action from Capitol Hill and Albany can have negative effects on any financial framework.
"We're not a rich county, we don't have a lot of money and there are so many things that we have no control over, like sales tax and health insurance," Sheri Ferdula, Herkimer County's budget officer said. "Things like that, that we have to fund no matter what, state mandates."
State action resulted in a negative outcome for Herkimer County's foster care system, where the number of cases has recently increased by 38 percent.
"The state legislature and the governor cut our funding last year by $200,000 dollars," Jim Wallace, Herkimer County's administrator said. "With the opioid problem, what we're starting to see is a little spike because of the problems that the parents have. It's just negative all the way around. If you're in foster care and you have a bad result, you end up in jail, and it's costing the taxpayers all our lives. But bigger than that, you're not helping the family and you're not helping the child."
The $200,000 dollar hole means the county will have to allocate around $180,000 to meet the demand for foster services and family assistance.
"The other social services areas that don't have as much activity as the foster care, we did make some cuts," Ferdula said.
"Epidemic, it's everywhere," Raymond Johnson, legislator for District 5 said. "It's starting to fall back on legislators' shoulders to see what we can start doing with it and how we're going to handle it."
A public hearing on the budget is set for Wednesday, Dec. 13th at 7p.m. and the process of finalizing the numbers is expected to start after the hearing.
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