County Leg approves budget with no tax increase, long list of capital projects

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 December 2022 at 11:26 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: The county will replace its fuel farm on West Academy Street in Albion, a $1.5 million project to be paid out of the county’s building & reserve fund.

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday unanimously passed a $93,702,812 budget for 2023 that doesn’t increase taxes.

Spending is up by about $15 million – from $78,691,774 in 2022. A big increase in capital projects is the primary reason for the budget growth.

The county has a long list of capital projects totaling $13,618,267, which is up from the $5,066,125 in the 2022 budget.

“This is a  record-breaking investment for us in capital projects,” said Jack Welch, the county’s chief administrative officer and budget officer.

He outlined the budget during a public hearing on Wednesday in the legislative chambers of the County Office Building. The Legislature then voted 7-0 to adopt that plan.

The tax levy, what the county collects in property taxes, remains at $18,657,000. The tax rate, however, will drop 22 cents from $10.09 to $9.87 per $1,000 of assessed property.

Lynne Johnson, Legislature chairwoman, said the budget “is a smart, fiscally responsible plan that funds our DPW, public safety and makes key investments in public health and wellness, economic and workforce development, and in restoring and rebuilding our critical community infrastructure that contributes to our quality of life.”

The county has collected big increases above budget in sales tax in recent years. Next year will be the first time the county’s budget for sales tax at $18,853,000 exceeds the tax levy. That number is up $1 million from the budget in 2022 for sales tax.

Sales tax on online purchases has been the biggest driver in the increase, Welch said.

The $13.6 million in capital projects is believed to be the most in county history, Welch said, and is up from the $5,066,125 in 2022.

Some of the capital projects for 2023 include:

  • $1.5 million for replacement of the county’s fuel farm
  • $1,390,000 for a solar farm and energy efficiency project (by the Emergency Management Office on West Countyhouse Road)
  • $2,096,100 to replace the Angling Road bridge
  • $1,040,00 to replace the bridge on Route 237
  • $999,616 for the Lakeshore Road bridge project
  • $776,000 for Taylor Hill Road culvert replacement
  • $1,890,000 for highway reconstruction
  • $740,000 for an addition to the DPW
  • $792,615 for CAD and RMS software in the Sheriff’s Office
  • $200,000 for jail repairs
  • $90,000, Clerk and Courthouse parking lot
  • $25,000, Courthouse dome lighting project

“The proposed 2023 budget is encouraging as it keeps property taxes flat while also investing in critical infrastructure throughout the county,” Johnson said during the budget hearing. “As we move beyond direct pandemic response, we are shifting our focus to investments for our long-term future.”

The budget also includes nearly $17 million towards nine state-mandated program. The “9 for 90” accounts for about 90 percent of the county’s tax levy.

Those programs and the county cost include:

  • Medicaid, $7,385,441
  • Pension, $2,944,844
  • Public Assistance/Safety Net, $1,915,672
  • Child Welfare/Protection, $1,805,697
  • Special Education, $947,038
  • Probation, $711,056
  • Indigent Defense, $512,889
  • Mental Health – Law Expense 730.30, $401,500
  • Early Intervention, $253,621
  • Total of “9 for 90” – $16,877,758

The budget gives some agencies an increase and while others stay at the same level of funding.

The Orleans Economic Development will receive $200,000 in 2023, up from $190,000; Soil & Water Conservation will get $95,000, up from $92,500; and the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council will receive $4,000, up from $3,000.

The Cornell Cooperative Extension remains at $240,000 and the four public libraries continue at $10,000. Mercy Flight stays at $5,000 and the Sportsman’s Federation remains at $1,000.

The county workforce includes 345 full-time employees and 96 part-timers. There are also 163 seasonal workers with 150 in the Board of Elections.