ELIZABETHTOWN - The Essex County Board of Supervisors voted overwhelmingly in favor of a local law to override the state's 2 percent tax cap.
Lawmakers met Monday night at the county courthouse for public hearings on the override law and the tentative 2012 budget. Only one person spoke to supervisors about the tax cap override mechanism, although 23 spoke on the budget from a crowd of nearly 150 people.
Jim Hotaling of Willsboro said adopting the override law was necessary "so the county can pass a fair and balanced budget for all citizens of the county."
Board members shared that opinion.
"I feel that we have no choice," said Supervisor Joyce Morency, R-St. Armand. "With the revenues we've lost from the state and all the other impossible situations with our budget this year, it's almost impossible to stay below the 2 percent. We're not doing this because we want to."
County Manager Dan Palmer said the state's calculation for Essex County actually permits a tax levy increase of 3.28 percent.
Moriah town Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said most towns met the tax cap because the county gives 0.25 percent of sales tax revenue to towns.
"The county subsidizes the towns in many ways," he said. "This is just going to be a shift. If we try to kid ourselves and say we're going to cut out all these programs, ultimately it's going to end up back on town tax."
Only two supervisors voted against the override: Jay's Randy Douglas and Wilmington's Randy Preston. Douglas said he thinks the county could still find a way to get the tax levy increase below 3.28 percent.
"And a lot of this gives us more leverage," he added, "by saying to the state, 'We held up our end of the bargain. This year we did this without any mandate relief; where is your mandate relief next year?' I think if we hold up our end of the bargain, then next year they'll come back with significant mandate relief."