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SPENDING PLAN CALLS FOR TAX HIKE OF 6 PERCENT

Wyoming County officials Monday released a tentative $93.8 million budget for 2005, which includes an average tax rate of $6.61 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Wyoming's tax levy is proposed to be increased by 6 percent, or $567,121, to $10 million in the proposed 2005 spending plan.

The average tax rate will increase to $6.61 from $6.45 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, a 2.48 percent increase, county officials said. Officials estimated that a home assessed at $100,000 that paid $645 this year would pay $661 in 2005.

County revenues total $81.2 million, an increase of $2.7 million, or 3.5 percent.

The budget also contains a $600,000 subsidy from the Wyoming County Community Health System for the second straight year.

Estimated county sales tax revenues are projected to be $11.6 million for 2005, up $500,000 from 2004 totals, according to John Edwards, county treasurer.

In order to hold down the tax rate from increasing more, surplus funds have been applied from the county's general fund of $2.5 million.

"This is due to three major factors that have affected every county in New York State: Medicaid, health insurance premiums and state retirement," Edwards wrote in his annual budget message.

He said Medicaid costs have increased $525,000 in the proposed 2005 spending plan from what was budgeted for 2004.

The departments receiving larger portions of the proposed spending plan include the Wyoming County Community Health System, $41.9 million, or 44.6 percent; Social Services, $15.8 million, or 16.90 percent; Highway Department, $7.1 million, or 7.59 percent; Health Department, $5.5 million, or 5.93 percent; law enforcement, $6.4 million, or 6.9 percent; and education, 2.8 million, or 3.06 percent.

There is a projected average 2 percent salary increase for all employees not in a union, officials said.

Officials said no money has been set aside for new Sheriff's Department cars. Edwards reported that most contract agencies will have similar funding levels from 2004 totals.

County debt includes $867,223 for the health system's co-generation energy project, $2 million for the skilled nursing facility expansion, $1.1 million for hospital equipment, $4.1 million for road reconstruction and the government center and $855,000 for courthouse construction.

Before it is finalized, the budget needs to be approved by the full Board of Supervisors and go before a public hearing.

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