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County’s tentative budget drops tax rate 3 cents

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 November 2016 at 2:57 pm

ALBION – The tentative budget for Orleans County would reduce the tax rate by 3 cents to $9.86 per $1,000 of assessed property.

However, the county would take in 2.5 percent more in taxes, up $405,260 to $16,728,410. The $2.5 percent increase remains under the tax cap because the county was under it in recent years and can carry over that difference.

The tax rate will go down slightly because total assessed value in the county grew 2.844 percent from $1.650 billion to $1.696 billion.

The tentative budget was filed on Wednesday by Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer and budget officer. The County Legislature will have a public hearing on Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Orleans County Courthouse.

Overall spending is up 1.81 percent or by $1.18 million to $65,614,624. This will be the third year the county hasn’t had the nursing home, and Nesbitt said that spared the county from an estimated $2 million tax hit for 2017.

Here are some highlights from Nesbitt in the tentative budget:

• Mental Health

The county has opened satellite mental health offices in each of the five school districts, and is now working to offer integrated primary care and mental health services in a collaborative partnership with Oak Orchard Health.

The 2017 budget includes four positions to staff ten new satellite offices across the five districts that had been added throughout 2016.

“These positions are revenue generating, justifying themselves from a cost benefit standpoint,” Nesbitt said in his budget message.

The county is seeking grants to shift some services to the main campus by the County Administration Building. Those grants funds could be used to develop a new facility to modernize Public Health and Mental Health operations, expand offerings, and reorganize county facilities, Nesbitt said.

“An added benefit of the project will be a reduction of wear and tear on historic Courthouse Square, taking pressure off the historically significant buildings,” he said.

• Aging

Office for the Aging has a grant to add a full-time aging service specialist. In January 2017, a statewide advertising campaign will encourage New Yorkers to contact NY Connects throughout the state as a No Wrong Door entity providing access to long-term care services. This newly created position will screen all calls and walk‐ins for individuals from birth to death for long-term care services.

Planning

The county last year added a planning professional to the Planning Department to address comprehensive planning in the local communities, including waterfront revitalization, harbor dredging and community development.

Pensions

Although the overall employer contribution percentage remained the same and full-time equivalent numbers are up slightly from 2016, the amount budgeted for the New York State Retirement System was down $27,387 from 2016 at $2,627,117 (a reduction of just over 1%). This is reflective of some Tier 5 and 6 penetration, Nesbitt said.

Health Insurance

Orleans County continues to benefit from a partnership with the Alliance of Western New York, Nesbitt said. The county’s overall premium increase is projected at a 2.77 percent increase or $131,956.

• County Jail

The county jail shows the largest single increase of any department at $277,127.

“Regulators at the state level have forced the county to eliminate most of the revenue for boarding inmates in our facility,” Nesbitt said. “The state has also required that the county change the methodology for allocation of command staff at the facility. This has resulted in additional costs to the facility.”

State mandates

The nine major state mandates that used to make up 90 percent of statewide county property taxes are down slightly from $16,397,378 in 2016 to $16,319,197 in 2017. This reduction is primarily due to reductions in the local Medicaid share resulting from enhancements in the Affordable Care Act.

“If the ACA is repealed, it will have a significant impact on property taxes across the state of New York and likely forcing universal Tax Cap overrides by counties across the state,” Nesbitt said.

The local cost of the nine state mandated programs equals 97.56 percent of the county property tax levy, he said.

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