LOCKPORT- Niagara County lawmakers approved a $321.8 million spending plan Tuesday night in Lockport, with a slight 1.2 percent property tax rate increase that is below the county’s legally-required 2 percent tax cap.
The approved budget sets a full value tax rate of $7.72 per $1,000 of assessed value, up slightly from the $7.63 rate in the 2012 spending plan. Despite the minimal uptick in rates, the fiscally conservative budget maintains deep cuts in county tax rates achieved over the course of the past decade, with taxes still sharply lower than the $8.78 per $1,000 rate reached in 2004.
The budget passed the 15-member Niagara County Legislature by a 10-5 vote.
The 2013 budget also continues several austerity measures, including freezes in pay increases for county employees as Niagara County’s government continues to chart a conservative budgeting course during a period of declining state aid and increases in unfunded state mandates. The budget also eliminated 40 county positions through privatization and restructuring.
“This budget came in $2.6 million under the tax cap. It’s a responsible budget with no gimmicks,” said Legislature Majority Leader Rick Updegrove, R-Lockport, following the budget’s passage. “We have worked to produce a responsible plan for funding our county government’s operations all year long. That is reflected in the fact that Niagara County government hasn’t been smaller since Bill Clinton was still a governor.”
The 2013 budget reduces the size of county government to 1,385 full-time positions.