SARANAC LAKE - The Franklin County Board of Legislators will hold a series of hearings here Thursday on the budget, a tax cap override and the county's redistricting plan.
The small committee of county legislators, election officials and Democratic and Republican party heads put together a plan that only changes two districts.
The plan moves one election district of Malone from legislative district number 2, represented now by David "Billy" Jones, to legislative district 4, represented now by Marc "Tim" Lashomb.
That makes the total overall deviation from the average population 9.2 percent. A less-than-5-percent deviation is ideal, but up to 10 percent is acceptable.
Harrietstown resident Dan Jenkins was one of several people who successfully sued to overturn the county's last redistricting effort after the 2000 census. Jenkins requested to be put on the committee working out this year's district lines, but county legislators didn't appoint him or any members of the public to the committee, saying they wanted to keep it small and manageable.
The county's tentative 2013 budget includes a 5.57 percent increase to the tax levy.
Total spending would be about $99.7 million, a decrease of $12.8 million, or 14 percent.
But revenue also drops dramatically in the proposed budget, by $14.1 million, or 14.6 percent, to $82.3 million. That's mostly losses of state funding for services being trimmed.
Since that tentative budget was filed Oct. 1, county Legislator Tim Burpoe said board members have looked at a few options for dropping the levy lower.
They are discussing a change to the county's retired employee insurance provider, which would save about 1 percentage point on the levy, Burpoe said in a Tuesday night phone interview. But they're concerned about keeping the quality of the insurance the same for retirees, so they plan to look at that possibility in greater detail.
Tax cap override
Thursday afternoon will also include a hearing on a local law that would override the state's tax cap, which is around 2 percent.
Burpoe said he and the finance committee he chairs have encouraged other legislators to approve an override, "with all of these numbers moving all the time."
Last year, the board held a hearing on an override, just in case, since the budget came in under the tax levy cap but no one was sure what the state's standards would be in the first year of the new rule. But then legislators unanimously opposed the override when it came up for a vote.
Burpoe said the county is approaching the point where it is starting to take away services it offered to taxpayers. Before long, he said, it could be almost that people who get help from social services and the public defender's office could be the only ones who benefit from the county.
He's looking for feedback as to whether the county should continue stripping services or if it should start defying the state's tax cap and push to provide services that he said many think the county should offer.
"We want to hear whether we're on track or not and what they think we can do," Burpoe said. "Everything's on the table."
The county Board of Legislators usually just has hearings at the Harrietstown Town Hall and holds all its regular meetings in Malone, but this year it will hold a full regular meeting in Saranac Lake the day of the hearings.
The meeting will begin with a 3 p.m. work session. No topics for discussion were listed on an agenda sent out Tuesday, but county legislators often cover a wide range of topics when the agenda calls for a work session.
At 4 p.m., the board is set to hold its call to order, which is when board members consider and vote on any resolutions before them.
Then the hearings begin at 4:30, with the tentative budget up for discussion first, a hearing on the tax cap override at 5, and the hearing on the redistricting plan at 5:30.