$73 million county budget passes unanimously

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 December 2020 at 7:52 pm

ALBION – Orleans County legislators unanimously approved a $73,262,025 budget today for 2021. The spending plan will increase the tax levy by 1.66 percent, which is just under the county’s allowable tax cap of 1.75 percent.

The budget increases spending by 2.16 percent, from $71,711,638 to $73,262,025. The tax rate will go up by 1.11 percent or 11 cents, from $9,87 to $9.98 per $1,000 of assessed property.

The seven county legislators all backed the budget and there wasn’t any dissent during a public hearing on Monday and during a public comment opportunity this afternoon.

Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson said the budget maintains existing programs, stays under the tax cap and provides resources to fight Covid.

The budget reduces the county workforce, eliminating 8 full-time jobs and 12 part-time positions from 2020.

Some other budget highlights include:

The budget for the first time sets a county cap on community colleges. The county pay up to $2,050,000 to community colleges in 2021. The cost is supposed to be split into thirds, with the state, local municipality and student each paying a third. But Johnson said the state has pulled back on its contribution, putting more pressure on students and local municipalities.

The county will be spending $2,240,251 for community colleges in 2020. That is $190,251 over the cap it is setting. The county will pay the full amount this year, but starting in 2021 the towns will pay any local cost over the $2,050,000.

The town share will be based on credit hours of residents in those towns. Based on the data in 2019/2020, the additional $190,251 overages for each town would be $40,384 in Albion, $8,283 for Barre, $14,105 in Carlton, $15,040 in Clarendon, $14,096 in Gaines, $9,063 in Kendall, $21,020 in Murray, $34,297 in Ridgeway, $22,198 in Shelby and $11,760 in Yates.

Nine mandated programs from the state account for more than 90 percent of the tax levy, Welch said. Those “9 for 90” mandates and their county cost include: Medicaid, $8,121,776; Pension, $3,054,489; Public Assistance/Safety Net, $1,802,337; Child Welfare/Protection, $1,336,399; Special Education, $971,931; Probation, $759,299; Indigent Defense, $536,053; Youth Detention, $302,650; and Early Intervention, $204,688.

Those nine mandated costs add up to $17,089,622, or 93 percent of the $18,309,497 tax levy.

The budget allocates $2,577,00 in capital projects — $1,225,000 for highway reconstruction with state CHIPS money (down 20%), $1,152,000 in preventive maintenance on four bridges (funded through federal TIP funds), and $100,000 in county funds for culvert and bridge repairs, and $100,000 in local funds to patch and seal county roads.

• Sales tax is currently slightly above the receipts in 2019. That convinced county officials to budget $400,000 more in sales tax in 2021, to $16,175,000. (The county also is in a two-year annual sales tax diversion of $190,274 for “Fiscally Distressed Health Facilities,” which was imposed by the state.)

The budget also maintains funding to outside agencies. They didn’t face a funding cut, and they didn’t get an increase.

Those agencies and organizations in the budget include: $240,000 to Cornell Cooperative Extension, $190,000 to Orleans Economic Development Agency, $92,500 to Soil & Water Conservation District, $10,000 to be shared among four public libraries, $5,000 to Mercy Flight, $4,000 to Sportsmen Federation, and $3,000 to GO Art!

The fee for solid waste and recycling service will be $216, which is a 2 percent increase from 2020.