Northampton County Council voted 7-2 last night to approve a $528 million spending plan for next year. The sole No votes came from Tara Zrinski and John Cusick. Zrinski was still upset about the payraises in the elections office and a contingency fund increase that will give County Council control over $450,000. She supported both of them just the day before, and even said at one point that she just wanted there to be a discussion. John Cusick voted No to the budget because the budget for Gracedale is based on a census of 575. "If it were a novel, you'd have to put it in the fiction section," he complained.
In addition to approving the budget, County Council also voted, 8-1, to cut taxes by one mill ($8.6 million) for all county taxpayers, from 11.8 to 10.8 mills.
Peg Ferraro opposed the tax rate decrease because she said there are "so many other needs" in the County. She said the money could be spent on county employees to work at Gracedale. Ron Heckman said that, historically, tax reductions have resulted in a need to raise them the following year. He added, however, that the county's cash reserves are very healthy.
A home assessed at $75,000 will receive a tax bill next year that drops from $885 to $810. The budget is also balanced.This budget was reviewed by County Council in a series of five budget hearings. Council basically accepted the budget as proposed, but included amendments regarding salaries and its contingency fund. In an oddity of the county's home rule charter, a thumbs down would mean the spending plan as proposed would go into effect automatically.
McClure's spending plan continues a continued commitment to fund open space preservation at $3 million every year. This is accomplished by purchasing conservation easements under which farmers agree to never develop their land. In addition, the county purchases environmentally sensitive land and both creates and maintains parks. In his budget message, McClure states his object is to both preserve green space and limit warehouse proliferation.