Drug task force changes among discussions at county budget hearing

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The Oneida County Board of Legislators’ Ways & Means Committee continued its 2017 budget scrutiny Tuesday when the panel met with the district attorney.

The committee is in the midst of its review of County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr.’s $393.5 million spending plan.

He proposes to increase spending by less than a half of a percent next year while holding the line on the amount of money collected in property taxes.

Responding to sales tax shortfalls last year and an anticipated one this year, the 2017 budget includes decreasing projected sales tax revenue from this year’s $98 million to $96 million. 

Legislators can increase or decrease spending. The final budget vote will be at the Nov. 9 monthly board meeting. It will
be preceded by 7 p.m. public hearings Nov. 7 at the Rome Courthouse and Nov. 8 at the County Office Building in Utica. 

On Tuesday, few pointed questions were asked of District Attorney Scott D. McNamara by Ways & Means members. Several of the exchanges were laced with smiles and humor.

His department’s proposed budget tops $4.8 million for 2017.

The topic receiving the most attention during the DA’s appearance was the how the drug task force is undergoing revisions.

He explained it is going from a unit that draws from the DA’s office and in-county law enforcement agencies to a regional approach involving seven counties and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

In discussing the revamped drug task force, McNamara said what worked in 1995 doesn’t anymore. He said the DEA is expected to help pay for overtime racked up by the task force.

Committee members asked about how task force overtime is accounted for in the budget.

The district attorney explained that overtime has been moved to a different budget line for 2017. 

Other discussions about the future of policing included McNamara describing how a crime analysis center will be based in the Utica Police Department. The purpose of the new entity is to link departments, officers and data in real time.

The center comes on the heels of similar centers opened around the state in recent years. 

Later in the evening the committee met with County Clerk Sandra J. DePerno and Public Works Commissioner Dennis S. Davis. Neither reported substantial differences from this year to 2017.Ways & Means members will hear from County Comptroller Joseph J. Timpano and consider the 2017 capital budget Tuesday and then vote on amendments next Wednesday.

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