ELIZABETHTOWN - The chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors expects budget talks to get under way within the next two weeks.
Randy Douglas, D-Jay, told the Enterprise that budget negotiations were "put on the wayside" because of Tropical Storm Irene. He said overseeing repairs and clean-up efforts has kept supervisors and county officials busy.
But that should change in the coming days, Douglas said Monday.
"I assume that very shortly - within the next two weeks - we'll be really pushing forward," he said.
Douglas said the county is still putting together estimates on next year's budget. He declined to offer any specifics, but he did describe the fiscal outlook as "not pretty."
"It's a tough time for me to make comments about the state of New York because they've been so hopeful during this time of our need," he said. "But the 2 percent tax cap is tough on us when you reduce funding of state aid."
Department heads are currently putting together preliminary budgets. From there, supervisors will have to decide whether to increase taxes or reduce services, Douglas said.
"It's tough times," he said. "Some of the services that aren't mandated, unfortunately, we're going to have to reduce - and possibly cut staff."
According to Douglas, county Manager Dan Palmer sent out letters to agencies that contract with Essex County in hopes of gaining information about their fund balances.
"I've asked for specific language, because we dipped in ours quite often over the last seven years," Douglas said. "I want to make sure that if they're sitting on a healthy fund balance, that they need to share a little bit of that with us if we're going to continue contracting with them."