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RESIDENTS COULD SEE FIRST TAX INCREASE IN EIGHT YEARS

Residents may see their first increase in Wyoming County taxes in eight years, officials said.

The proposed $38.2 million spending plan for 2002 includes a tax rate of $5.92 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, up from $5.80 in 2001. County officials said for a home assessed at $100,000, the increase means a $12 increase in county taxes.

County leaders said higher interest rates and a slowing economy reeling from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have played a role in the potential tax increase.

"The situation is pretty tough," said Kevin DeFebbo, county administrator. "The 9-11 (terrorist attack) is taking its toll on the county."

The proposed 2002 budget would increase spending by 2 percent, or $832,681, over the 2001 spending plan.

County officials said the budget for the Wyoming County Community Health System still needs to be factored into the spending plan, but the health system has been operating at a profit for the past several years.

Wyoming County supervisors are reviewing the proposed budget in committee. DeFebbo said a final budget is expected to be adopted in November.

"We know we are going to have to have a tax increase," said Anne Humphrey, vice chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors and Financial Committee chairwoman. "We hope to keep it as small as possible."

The proposed county budget's contingency line was also decreased to $300,000 in 2002 from $582,000 in 2001 in efforts to offset spending.

She said county leaders are looking at a hiring freeze in the 2002 budget rather than a layoff of county employees. County officials said a salary freeze of county managers could also save as much as $100,000 in the 2002 budget.

Humphrey said county leaders also will need to make up a $500,000 budget shortfall.

Once the budget is approved by supervisors in committee, the spending plan still needs to go to a public hearing and be approved by the entire Board of Supervisors.

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