Schenectady County

Schenectady County ends ’08 with $33.7 million surplus

Schenectady County ended the 2008 fiscal year with a surplus, helped by an $8.6 million windfall, of
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Schenectady County ended the 2008 fiscal year with a surplus, helped by an $8.6 million windfall, officials said.

The surplus is welcome news, as it gives the county a cushion this year against expected declines in sales tax, mortgage tax and interest income, said county Legislator Philip Fields, D-Schenectady, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. “It will help us,” he said.

The $8.6 million went into the county’s surplus account, bringing the total to $33.7 million. This is an increase of $3.6 million from 2007’s total. The county uses the surplus account to lower or stabilize the tax levy, which totaled $68 million in 2008, up from $64 million in 2007.

The county is currently putting together its 2010 budget, which must be adopted by Nov. 1. County Manager Kathleen Rooney said she has asked department heads to submit two budgets, one containing a 10 percent reduction and one with no net increase in expenditures. Beyond this, she declined to speculate on the budget’s final composition.

The county’s 2009 budget is $279 million.

Finance Commissioner George Davidson said the surplus came from three sources:

$1.9 million is from Boston & Maine railroad, which owed back taxes to the county for at least six years.

$5 million is from the federal government to reimburse the county for Medicaid costs associated with the Glendale Home. The county used $1.8 million of the total toward its annual subsidy to the nursing home and will dole out the rest over the next few years.

$310,000 is from two grants, which reimbursed the county for the purchase of recycling and composting equipment.

Davidson called the revenue a windfall. By receiving it, the county did not have to use any of its surplus account for 2008; it had planned to use $1.7 million, he said.

Rooney and Davidson said the county is doing well financially, the result of efforts to lower the cost of government. The county has reduced its work force by around 200 positions by consolidating departments and services and not filling positions, Rooney said.

Republicans, however, who hold four of the 15 seats on the Legislature, say the county has not gone far enough to reduce expenses and has filled positions with political appointees.

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