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Proposed county budget would raise taxes 2.5%, maintain services

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 November 2018 at 10:39 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: County officials on April 25 break ground on a new $10 million addition to the County Administration Building. The 2019 budget includes the first debt payment of $437,629 for the project.

ALBION – Orleans County officials have put together a tentative $71,031,480 budget for 2019 that increases spending by 1.86 percent and would raise taxes by 2.51 percent.

There will be a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 26 on the budget. That hearing will be at the Orleans County Courthouse. To see a copy of the budget, click here.

The tax levy, what the county collects in taxes, would increase by $419,921, from $17,150,323 to $17,570,244 for 2.51 percent. However, the tax rate would go up 5 cents or 0.5 percent, from $10.05 to $10.10 per $1,000 of assessed property.

Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer, filed a copy of the tentative budget on Wednesday. He is the county budget officer.

“The $71 million budget recommendation continues a consistent and stable approach to investment in the county infrastructure, the organization and ongoing fiscal stability,” Nesbitt said in his budget message.

Nesbitt, county legislators and department heads wanted to maintain core county services and stay within the tax cap. The budget complies with the tax cap, leaving a $25,393 cushion under the cap, Nesbitt said.

The budget bears the burden of funding about 40 state programs, Nesbitt said. The state offers partial reimbursements for some of the programs. But the costs left to the county are a main driver in the tax levy, especially the Medicaid program.

“Counties are charged with responsibilities by New York State,” Nesbitt said. “The state then under funds these programs or doesn’t fund them at all.”

The tentative budget includes $16,662,210 to cover the nine state mandated programs, which is 95 percent of the property tax levy. The county contribution to the state programs is up $359,700 from 2018.

A 23,000-square-foot addition to the County Administration Building is under construction. A new bond payment for the project begins next year at $437,629 for that project. There are two major obligations being retired in 2020 for the courthouse and 2022 for the radio system that should begin to relieve that pressure going forward, Nesbitt said. Those two payments account for $683,693 in the 2019 budget.

The budget funds 430 positions and includes some additions. The Sheriff’s Office has added a School Resource Officer at the Kendall and Lyndonville school districts, with each district paying $100,000 for the deputy. Buildings and Grounds is adding an employee to assist with Solid Waste and Recycling as well as additional maintenance, and the District Attorney’s Office has budgeted for an additional part-time assistant DA to cover new duties related to Raising the Age of Criminal Responsibility.

In his budget message, Nesbitt notes the county continues to share some funds with the towns and villages, including $1,366,671 in sales tax, a number that has been frozen since 2001. However, county officials say many smaller counties do not share any sales tax with towns and villages. The county is budgeting for a $560,000 increase in sales tax next year, which will help absorb some of the rising expenses.

The county will pay $1.9 million for the local chargeback for community colleges in 2019. In some counties, that bill is sent to the towns.

The county will maintain funding to several outside agencies in 2019.

The Cooperative Extension receives the most funding of an outside organization at $240,000. That is the same as 2018. The organization didn’t seek an increase in 2019.

Other funded organizations include:

• The Orleans Economic Development Agency is budgeted for $190,000, up from $180,000. The EDA requested $190,000.

• Soil and Water, $92,500, same as 2018, requested $100,000

• Four public libraries, $10,000, same as in 2018, requested $42,883;

• Mercy Flight $5,000, same as 2018;

• Sportsman’s Federation, $4,000, up from $1,000, requested $4,000;

• GO Art!, $3,000, same as 2018, requested $4,000

• The Cobblestone Museum also requested $7,500 but remains out of the budget as a line item. The Legislature the past two years have approved $3,000 in end-of-the-year funding,

The budget also calls for 2 percent raises for the seven county legislators. Their pay will go from $17,778 to $18,133 for the chairwoman, $13,442 to $13,711 for the vice chairman, and $11,850 to $12,087 for the other legislators.

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