Updated 10/09/2012 07:46 PM
Proposed budget cuts threaten police
A tax battle in St. Lawrence County reaches new heights. One lawmaker is offering a solution to a proposed 19 percent tax hike. But it includes drastic cuts that could impact public safety. He's proposing to end road patrols for the county's sheriff department. Our Barry Wygel shows us how realistic the idea is.
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ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY, N.Y. -- Lawmakers in St. Lawrence County are facing tough choices. To get their budget under the tax cap limit, they would have to cut major programs.
"The tentative budget we received called for a 19 to 20 percent property tax increase and I believe that's an amount that's unreasonable," said Fred Morrill, St. Lawrence County legislator.
Morrill spent the weekend wrestling with the budget and came up with a way to cut the budget to a point where the tax increase would be under the limit, but it would come at a cost.
"That would mean an elimination of the sheriffs' road patrol. Another choice would be a big cut to the highway department. Other things would be things of convenience, we have satellite offices for the county clerk's office. These cost money," said Morrill.
The county can get around the tax cap, but 60 percent of the legislators would have to vote in favor of it. Morrill says he wanted to see what the budget picture would look like if it was under that limit.
Now, this isn't something Morrill says he wanted to do, but he said it was necessary to give the voters options on the budget.
"There are cuts that I don't believe I can support. But the option has to be there. And I think the public needs to know what it would take," said Morrill.
Morrill says there is an alternative. A one percent sales tax increase would mean $14 million in revenue. But it must be approved by the state legislature, which doesn't look likely before the budget is due.