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Legislature protests state's surcharge on equipment

A week after learning that the state is adding a 1 percent surcharge for equipment and supplies purchased through a state agency, the Genesee County Legislature is crying, "Enough!"

Last week, lawmakers unanimously approved a resolution "urging the governor and the State Legislature to reduce state spending without shifting state program costs to county government."

The issue is timely because the county is currently preparing a 2009 budget hoping to keep the tax rate below $10 per $1,000 of assessed value for the third consecutive year.

The current rate is $9.82.

Two weeks ago, the Ways and Means Committee learned about the 1 percent surcharge being imposed by the state Office of General Services.

The fee was added in July to help decrease a state budget deficit.

The county uses the state bid system for many items, ranging from office furniture and equipment to police cars.

As a result, the state purchasing discount that had been enjoyed by the county could disappear entirely, adding thousands of dollars to county costs.

Meanwhile, county departments in their 2009 budget proposals are being asked to freeze spending at 2008 levels.

Budget Director Jay A. Gsell concedes he is facing tough decisions in order to maintain services while decreasing, or holding the line, on taxes.

Another unknown is how the current economic decline will impact business development and sales tax revenue -- both major components of the county revenue stream.

The budget already has absorbed one hit -- an 8 percent reduction in state funding and reimbursement to counties, which was put in place this summer. That will cost the county about $200,000.

The Legislature's resolution asks that state policymakers "draw a clear distinction between cuts in state spending and simple cost shifting that requires counties to fund a large share of state-mandated services."

The 2008 budget is $140 million.

The 2009 spending plan is usually adopted in November after a public hearing, which this year will be held Nov. 3 in the Batavia Senior Center.

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