ALFRED — Those who want to know where the county portion of their municipal property tax is spent can attend a public hearing on the proposed $18.65 million county budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, on Wednesday evening.

The proposed budget is up about $300,000 from this year, but the $15.94 million proposed to be billed to municipalities in tax is about $55,000 less than in the current year spending plan.

The public hearing is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the York County Court House in Alfred.

County commissioners voted on the budget in April, and then the document moved on to the York County Budget Committee, which voted favorably all but one provision: health insurance for county commissioners. The budget committee voted to remove $10,000 from the health insurance budget, reflecting the amount the county spends for two of the five York County commissioners.

Commissioners reason that they are entitled to health insurance under the county personnel policy. The county spends $7,000 for health insurance for Commissioner Dan Cabral, and pays Commissioner Gary Sinden $3,000 because he is eligible for health insurance but chooses not to take it ”“ the same payment available to county employees. Three other commissioners ”“ Chairwoman Sallie Chandler, Richard Dutremble and Michael Cote ”“ do not take part in the county’s health insurance plan, nor do they take the $3,000.

The budget committee has balked at commissioners receiving health insurance benefits for years ”“ Chairman John Sylvester said he believes this is the fourth time the issue has surfaced since he became involved with the budget committee.

It is commissioners, however, who set policy, noted County Manager Greg Zinser.

“The budget committee can’t set policy, so the reality is, from a policy perspective, that commissioners are still eligible” for the benefit, Zinser said.

Commissioners did vote to suspend one aspect of the personnel policy this year ”“ the one that entitles them to a raise. While the amount is small, making the gesture largely symbolic, county commissioners have voted against raises for themselves this year, saving a total of $1,141.

The proposed budget includes some staffing changes, including the addition of a full-time clerk in the York County District Attorney’s Office, a part-time clerk in the Registry of Probate and a part-time janitor. The proposed spending plan increases the hours of the assistant to the finance director from 30 to 40 hours a week, and reduces by one the number of clerks at the Registry of Deeds.

Financing the salary of the human resources director’s position was shared by the county and York County Jail, but given the worry over whether the state will continue to be able to make its quarterly jail contribution, the salary will now be financed entirely from the general fund, adding $40,000 to the budget. As well, $130,000 has been earmarked for increases in overtime and gasoline costs for the sheriff’s department, according to a summary of changes included in the proposed budget document.

The spending proposal includes projected increases in revenues, mostly from the Registry of Deeds, including a projected $200,000 increase in deeds recording fees, $250,000 in deeds transfer tax and $10,000 more each from photocopying and Internet revenue.

The county budget committee has also added a new item to the budget: $5,000 earmarked for clerical support for the budget panel, which is currently provided by the administrative assistant of the Town of Alfred. Until about 2008, the county provided the service, but that changed under the administration of former county manager Richard Brown, and an increase in tensions between commissioners and the budget committee over various issues. That brouhaha culminated in a lawsuit that was decided in the budget committee’s favor, earlier this year. Since that decision, relations between the two groups have been cordial.

In fact, both Zinser and Sylvester said the budget process this year, was, for the most part, smooth.

Sylvester said he feels the county has done a good job at keeping tax assessments to the municipalities ”“ which are passed on to property taxpayers ”“ essentially flat.

As to the clerical issue, Zinser said the county has offered to resume providing clerical services to the committee. Sylvester acknowledged the county provided the service in the past, and has offered to do so again, but said the $5,000 earmarked by the budget board for the service gives the committee independence.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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