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Oswego County Legislature enters budget season

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The Oswego County Legislature is trying to cut costs and raise revenues in an attempt to balance its budget and keep taxes from rising.

Oswego County Administrator Philip Church recently presented to legislators his proposed 2015 budget, which includes a nearly seven percent property tax hike.

According to Church, that means 50 cents extra per $1,000 of assessed home value, or about $47.25 for the average $94,500 home.

He says increased costs for county employee benefits have helped contribute to the tax increase.

"The main differences in the budget, in terms of increases, are coming form workers compensation from bigger claims, increased prescription claim costs in the health budget, as well as a new tax that the county has to pay to the federal government under the Affordable Care Act," Church explained.

Other factors causing the higher tax rate include the ongoing inmate overcrowding issue at the Oswego County Jail.

Church says in prior years the county has dipped into its fund balance to keep tax rates flat, but this year they need to use less.

"We knew a couple years ago that we were going to reach a point that fund balance and reserves applied to the budget to lower taxes was going to come to an end, and that we had to reduce it significantly," Church said. "My advice is you don't wait until the end to do that and have a big crisis, where you're doing a double-digit tax increase. You've got to do it in stages over time."

Republican Majority Leader Terry Wilbur says he isn't happy with the current budget proposal and wants to see some cuts made.

"I'm not comfortable with going out today and adopting a 6.9 percent increase in taxes," Wilbur said. "We definitely need to, we can't stop there. We need to go further. We need to put our heads together and think as a group, not as individuals."

Michael Kunzwiler, Democratic minority leader, says he agrees Republicans and Democrats will need to work together.

"A lot of it is going to come down to is are people willing to make the tough choices, regardless of am I going to get reelected or am I not going to get reelected," Kunzwiler said. "It cant come down to that type of decision. It's got to come down to what's the right decision."

The budget needs to be approved by December 20.