Facing a possible $7.7 million budget shortfall by year’s end, Saratoga County supervisors cut an unprecedented $2.2 million from 2012 departmental budget requests on Tuesday.
The county’s phone system is aging and sometimes unreliable and the time clock system for county employees is antiquated, county department heads told the county’s Long Range Planning Committee. But requests to replace those systems were cut from the county’s 2012 capital budget during a committee meeting at the Saratoga County Municipal Center.
“I am very concerned about approving anything new this year,” County Administrator Spencer Hellwig III said.
Instead of $20.3 million in capital budget requests, the number was cut to $18 million and the 2012 capital budget was finalized.
“This is a tough year, one of the toughest years that we, as a county, have ever faced,” said Saratoga town Supervisor Thomas Wood, chairman of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors, so Wood and the other members of the Planning Committee turned down several requests for new spending.
Public Works Commissioner Joseph Ritchey presented two 2012 road and bridge work proposals. The supervisors accepted a less-expensive contingency plan that includes repaving 14.5 miles of county roads, rather than the usual 20 miles, and replacing at least four bridges next year.
The budget for the road work is $4.3 million, but half of that money comes from the state and federal governments. A total of $8.4 million in bridge replacement work was also approved, but only $789,530 of that comes out of the county budget.
The committee rejected requests for a carpet replacement program and parking lot paving at the county center, as well as $425,000 for a new county phone system and between $87,000 and $153,000 for a new computerized time card and employee attendance system.
Committee members did approve more than $1 million of work at Saratoga County Airport in Milton for a new safety lighting system along the runways. Only $30,000 of that airport money is local, though, Ritchey said.
Hellwig said the large cuts in budget requests are unprecedented, but the current economic conditions call for a budget at or below this year’s spending plan of $294 million. He said he would like to see the county actually reduce the 2012 budget below this year’s spending.
Hellwig expects about $7.7 million of the county’s $19 million surplus fund will be used to balance the budget and again avoid a property tax increase in 2012.
A major concern in the budget is its main source of revenue: sales tax. County officials had expected sales tax revenue to grow by 8 percent this year, based on stronger-than-expected sales tax growth in 2010, but revenue has grown less than 2 percent this year, leaving the county facing a drop of more than $6 million.
The Long Range Planning Committee will forward the proposed 2012 capital projects spending plan to the Law and Finance Committee, which will develop a tentative 2012 county budget. That proposed budget will then go to the full board, which will adopt a tentative budget that will be the subject of public hearings in November.
The board is expected to adopt a final budget in early December.
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