County Legislature approves 2018 budget with 2.5% percent tax increase

Photo by Tom Rivers: Orleans County Chief Administrative Officer Chuck Nesbitt, up front at podium, goes over details in the county’s $69.8 million budget for 2018. The public hearing was Monday evening in the Orleans County Courthouse.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 December 2017 at 9:06 am

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature on Monday unanimously adopted a $69.8 million county budget for 2018 that increases taxes by 2.5 percent.

The tax rate will increase by 19 cents or 1.9 percent to $10.05 per $1,000 of assessed property.

The budget is just barely below the state-imposed tax cap due to carryover the county had in recent years when the budgets were below the tax cap.

The Legislature and county department heads had to work to trim the budget to get under the tax cap. Four full-time positions were eliminated.

The budget increases taxes by $421,913 to $17,150,323 in 2018. Three factors are the main culprits for the increase: $273,618 more in expenses at the jail, the loss of Seneca Gaming Pact revenue at $230,000 and an additional $202,845 in Medicaid spending.

“We struggled to get under the allowable growth because of the loss of revenue from the Senecas and with the increased costs in the jail and with Medicaid,” Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer, said during a public hearing on Monday at the County Courthouse.

The county faces added expenses at the jail partly due to state regulations against isolating or segregating some inmates, Nesbitt said.

The Senecas and the state are in a dispute other sharing revenue from the Seneca casinos with the state and local governments. The issue could be resolved soon, or it may be under contention for years.

“We’re hoping it’s coming back,” Nesbitt said about the funds. “But it’s iffy.”

The county will also be spending $96,234 more for animal control next year as the county assumes the financial and legal responsibility for the service throughout Orleans. The county will add an animal control vehicle and staff.

The budget also includes $4,523,550 for infrastructure, including culverts and bridges. Most of those costs will be funded by the state and federal government.

A projected growth in sales tax revenue helped contain the tax increase. The county is budgeting for $610,000 more in sales tax.

The budget keeps contributions to some agencies flat, while giving some an increase. The funded agencies include:

• Libraries, stay at $10,000

• Orleans Economic Development Agency, from $170,000 to $180,000

• Sportsman’s Federation, stays at $1,000

• Soil and Water Conservation District, from $80,000 to $92,500

• Cooperative Extension, stays at $240,000

• GO Art!, stays at $3,000

• The Cobblestone Museum, which sought a $7,500 county contribution, is out of the budget as a line item. However, the Legislature approved $3,000 for the museum from the county’s contingency account.

The fee for solid waste and recycling service will be $212 in 2018, which is up $5.

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