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* This article first appeared in The Times Herald-Record on October 28, 1999. Used by permission.



Republicans rebuff plan to reduce county taxes

GOSHEN: Democrats wanted to use surplus funds to cut taxes in every Orange County municipality.

By Chris McKenna
The Times Herald-Record

An Orange County legislative committee voted along party lines yesterday to reject a Democratic proposal to spend more surplus funds to cut county taxes in every municipality next year.

Lawmakers are reviewing a budget proposed last month by County Executive Joe Rampe that is expected to lower the county tax rate in 20 of 23 cities and towns next year.

Three towns would see increases, according to county projections. Goshen's rate would increase by 5.8 percent; Wallkill's by 3.8 percent; and Warwick's by 1.6 percent.
Yesterday, Jeff Berkman, a Democratic lawmaker from Middletown, argued that the county has enough money in its surplus to cut taxes in those three towns, too. He urged the Finance and Administration Committee to spend $3.5 million more in surplus funds than Rampe proposed.

"I think it could provide some meaningful relief to taxpayers," he said.

Republicans strongly rejected the idea. They said it would deplete the surplus, force the county to raise taxes in other years and set a tough precedent for cutting taxes in every municipality.

"This is a major mistake if we go along with this today," said Republican Majority Leader Eddie Diana of Goshen.
The committee voted 5 to 2 to reject the proposal.

Rampe has proposed drawing $17 million from a $51 million general fund surplus to help balance next year's budget.

That's the same amount that was used this year.

His $372 million proposed budget would require $62 million in property taxes, the same sum collected this year to support the budget. The Legislature has until Nov. 15 to return the proposal to Rampe with any changes.


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