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St. Lawrence repaying debt before borrowing anew

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County plans to pay off the $12 million it borrowed for 2013 operating expenses this week, but likely will turn around and borrow $10 million to deal with what continues to be cash flow problems at various times of the year.

The county probably can get through 2014 without borrowing as much as it did this year because of improved cash flow afforded by an increase in the local sales tax from 3 to 4 percent that will take effect Dec. 1, and because a portion of the state/tribal compact funds owed from previous years has come through, Treasurer Kevin M. Felt said.

“I think it’s going to be a little easier, but it’s certainly going to be tight,” he said.

Most of the additional revenue expected from the increase in sales tax is supposed to be used to reduce property taxes, meaning that little of it will be available to assist the county in other ways, Mr. Felt said.

Mr. Felt said he will ask legislators to approve the $10 million in borrowing at their Sept. 7 board meeting.

The expected interest rate will be just under 1 percent.

In 2012, the county took out a loan for the first time because of its cash flow difficulties. It increased the amount it borrowed from $8.5 million in 2012 to $12 million for 2013.

Mr. Felt said he will try to pay the county’s pension bill to the state early to reap a discount of approximately $60,000 but will have to gauge whether the county has enough cash when the payment is near.

“I’m going to make every effort I can,” Mr. Felt said. “There’s no guarantees.”

The county’s pension cost for next year has been estimated at $7.5 million. That number is lower than the $8.1 million that was budgeted because of the number of employees it reduced due to fiscal constraints.

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