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* This article first appeared in The Times Herald-Record on November16, 1999. Used by permission.




County OKs $374M budget

GOSHEN: Most cities and towns will see lower tax bills from Orange County next year.

By Michael Randall
The Times Herald-Record

The Orange County Legislature adopted a budget for 2000 yesterday that was nearly $2.5 million higher than the one presented to them six weeks ago.

The biggest part of the $2.45 million in changes was due to a $2.2 million net increase in Social Services spending recommended by an outside auditing firm hired by the county.

But Republican Majority Leader Eddie Diana of Goshen said the action won't change previously proposed tax rates because the money to cover the added spending comes from surplus funds set aside to pay off the county's debt.

The overall spending plan now stands at $374.45 million. Orange County Executive Joe Rampe's original proposal was for spending $372 million.

Individual legislators who tried to add other amendments to the budget were unsuccessful, whether it was $29,000 to keep the food preparation portion of a Highland Falls senior dining program from moving to Cornwall, or using $3.5 million from the unspent fund balance to reduce taxes in all 20 towns and three cities.

As it stands now, Goshen, Wall-kill and Warwick will pay higher county taxes next year. Because assessments vary from town to town, tax rates also vary, to ensure everyone pays a fair share.

Legislator Jeffrey Berkman of Middletown, whose district includes part of Wallkill, proposed using the $3.5 million from surplus.

"Our surplus is large enough that we can afford this," Berkman said.

But Diana said the county has been using too much of its unspent surplus in recent years. He said the county did "a commendable job" by lowering the rate in 20 of 23 communities for 2000.

Most of the 20 legislators present praised the overall budget, although some said they had problems with portions of it. Only two lawmakers objected strongly enough to vote no: Michael Farrell Sr. of Chester, and Thomas Pahucki of New Hampton.

"I cannot vote for a budget where cuts have been offered and not acted on," Pahucki said, referring to numerous spending cuts proposed during yesterday's session.


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