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The Berkshires

Sullivan County holds final budget hearing before 2013 vote

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Albany/HV: Sullivan County holds final budget hearing
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The Sullivan County Legislature held its final budget hearing. As our Eva McKend reports, some residents are concerned about the proposed property tax increase.

MONTICELLO, N.Y. -- It was the last time the public could comment on the 2013 proposed Sullivan County budget.

The $195 million tentative fiscal blueprint would include a nearly 13.8 percent increase in the county’s property tax levy, a tough pill to swallow for a retired Bethel High School science teacher.

“My students and their children can’t get jobs and that disturbs me a lot and I know that they can’t afford to have increased taxes because they can’t afford the taxes they have now," said Sandra Bauernfeind.

Sullivan County manager David Fanslau argued it’s not the county’s fault. He says the final budget will most likely not reflect a rate as high as the one proposed. Fanslau says the reason Sullivan County had to exceed the two percent state property tax cap is due to costly state mandates.

“If the state of New York would fully fund the programs that they mandate, there would not be a property tax problem in Sullivan County,” he said.

For residents like Margaret Spodnik on Happy Avenue in the town of Bethel, showing up at the Government Center and having her voice heard was imperative. She says she's seen the community drastically change over the years and the last thing it needs is a tax increase.

“You can’t get a job so how do they expect people to pay taxes above what they already do," said Spodnik.

Even though the proposed budget maintains all current county services and county jobs, the tentative tax increase comes at a time when the county has started foreclosing on more than 1,500 properties. The legislature will decide on the final 2013 budget on December 20th.

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