County administrator submits tentative budget that stays within tax cap

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 November 2020 at 9:11 pm

Orleans could eliminate 8 full-time positions and 12 part-time jobs

ALBION – Jack Welch, in his first year as Orleans County’s chief administrative officer, submitted the county’s tentative budget today. For months Welch has expressed concern about the county finances with declining state revenues, and potential hits in sales tax.

The 121-page document submitted today shows a spending plan that increases spending by 2.16 percent, from $71,711,638 to $73,262,025.

Jack Welch

It would increase taxes by 1.66 percent, with the tax levy going up by $299,798 — from $18,009,699 to $18,309,497.

The tax rate would increase by 1.11 percent or 11 cents, from $9,87 to $9.98 per $1,000 of assessed property.

Welch said the budget faces uncertainty with the state, if the governor and Legislature will pull back funding in 2021.

“The financial challenges we are experiencing include our businesses being restricted in their operations due to the changing Covid-19 operating guidelines that must be followed,” Welch said in his budget message. “This has affected our residents purchasing from local businesses which has changed the historical patterns of sales tax revenue for 2020. Therefore forecasting 2021 sales tax revenues is challenging at best.”

Some budget stresses are certain. The county will be paying 20 percent more in retirement contributions. That’s because the stock market was at a low point on March 31, and that’s the date the state comptroller takes the valuation of the retirement fund to set retirement rates for 2021.

The county also faces a 19 percent increase in health insurance premiums for 2021 due to  rising pharmaceutical costs in the county’s health plan.

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.

“Of course we have had to plan for continued use of PPE for our employees as well as for heightened cleaning and disinfecting of our facilities in 2021,” Welch said.

The budget meets a goal of county legislators in maintaining core services while staying within the state tax cap.

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, same since 2019
  • $3,000 to GO Art!

The tentative budget would eliminate 8 full-time jobs and 12 part-time positions from 2020. The county will down 8 full-time positions from 333 to 325. The county is adding eight full-time positions, but eliminating 16 for a net reduction of eight.

The new positions include two in Office for the Aging, two in highway administration, one in public health, one in computer services, one in emergency services, and one in real property tax services.

The full-time reductions include four in the Sheriff’s Department, three in the highway department, three in mental health, three in probation, two positions in social services, and one in the county jail. (The four deputy positions in the Sheriff’s Department that are being eliminated were assigned to courthouse security, which has since been taken over by the state. New York was paying the county for security, but is now staffing it with state court security officers.)

The number of part-time employees also will be down by 12 from 95 to 83. Those changes include two less part-timers in real property (from 2 to 0), one less in the public safety communication system (from 6 to 5), six less in the Sheriff’s Office (from 6 to 0), one less in the jail (from 12 to 11), one less in emergency management (from 10 to 9) and one more in social services (from 4 to 5).

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

“The current fee will continue to support the e-waste collection efforts for county residents at three sites across Orleans County,” Welch said. “The program remains very popular, with high demand for the disposal of CRT monitors and televisions. The county is also planning to continue to offer the Household Hazardous Waste pick up annually.”

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