Fulton County adopts $103 million budget with small tax increase

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors adopted a 2010 budget Monday containing an average county pro

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors adopted a 2010 budget Monday containing an average county property tax rate of $9.95 per $1,000 of assessed value, up 19 cents from last year, or just less than 0.02 percent.

The budget calls for about $103 million in spending, up approximately $4 million from last year. The county’s property tax levy for 2010 is set at $23.42 million, up from $22.6 million for 2009 and $21.3 million in 2008.

Fulton County had maintained an average county property tax rate of $9.76 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for the last two years, down slightly from 2007, when it was $9.80. County property tax rates vary among municipalities according to each municipality’s equalization rate, a formula that aims at closing the gap between the assessed value of property and its actual market value.

Perth Supervisor Greg Fagan, vice chairman of the board, said declining revenues from a weak economy and increased costs from public employee benefits forced a small increase this year.

“We would have loved to have had a zero increase but in the real world I think we did the best we could,” Fagan said.

The property tax rate increase equates to about a 1.95 percent average increase, down from the 7.8 percent tax rate increase that was projected at the state of the county’s budget process. The Board of Supervisors cut some capital spending and chose not to fill some vacant personnel positions but the property tax increase was mostly chopped down using $4.35 million of the county’s fund balance — its reserve of unspent tax revenues from previous years. The move will reduce the fund balance to about $11.65 million.

Gloversville 3rd Ward Supervisor Michael Gendron said he was amazed the county was able to get through its budget process without laying off any employees.

“As a 12-year veteran of the process, I think this was the most detailed scrubbing of the budget, with many meetings of our finance committee since June. Our department heads understood what had to be done,” he said.

Fagan and Gendron both expressed concern that the county may have spent too much of its fund balance in this budget.

“I think we went into the red zone when we went over $4 million. We’re dangerously close to using reserves and [not] protecting our cash flow. With a $100 million-plus budget, you have to have cash flow and not all of the fund balance is liquid,” Gendron said. “I think over $4 million is potentially dangerous.”

Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Michael Rooney disagreed. Rooney, a certified public accountant, said he sponsored the resolution to spend another $350,000 of the fund balance to bring the average county property tax rate below $10 per thousand and because he believes the county has underestimated several revenue streams, including proceeds from the sale of foreclosed properties, by at least that amount. He said since he’s been on the board the county has traditionally made very conservative revenue estimates that created a growing fund balance. He acknowledged the county has used the fund for the last two years but not as much as some supervisors fear.

“There is no two ways about it, we have a better cushion than we state,” Rooney said.

Michelle Ippoliti, Fulton County’s interim treasurer until Treasurer-elect Edgar “Terry” Blodgett takes over in January, said one bright spot for the county is its low debt level. She said Fulton County only owes about $1.5 million, which is due to be paid off in 2010.

“We’re trying to go into the future with a little bit of fund balance and no debt so we don’t have to come up with payments on debt that we don’t know that we can come through with. I think a lot of the counties in this state are racking up the debt for everything that they do and they are going to put themselves in a worse situation,” she said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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