Fulton County

Fulton County supervisors trim tax hike to 11 percent

County supervisors have recommended using $1 million in reserve funds to trim approximately 4 percen

County supervisors have recommended using $1 million in reserve funds to trim approximately 4 percent from a proposed 15 percent increase in the tax levy for 2013.

The Finance Committee of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors made the recommendation during a budget work session this morning. The vote was unanimous and followed a nearly 45-minute discussion in which committee members determined there was little left to cut in the county’s proposed $89 million budget for 2013.

“There is not a lot of room in there for anything,” said Gregory Fagan, chairman of the Finance Committee.

The committee will meet again Oct. 25 and could apply more of the fund balance to reduce the levy, and it may also forward a tentative budget to the full board then. The board has until Dec. 3 to adopt a budget. The county’s fiscal year begins Jan. 1.

The suggested 11 percent levy is still well above the 2.5 percent state-imposed tax levy cap. Supervisors would have to trim an additional $2.4 million from the adjusted $31 million property tax levy to get it within the cap, said Budget Director Alice Kuntzsch.

County Treasurer E. Terry Blodgett said the amount in the fund balance could fluctuate by as much as $2 million based on the status of $28 million in revenues yet to be collected and the final costs to close out the books on the Residential Health Care Facility, which the county sold to a private corporation last year. He said he should have a better handle on these figures by the committee’s next meeting.

Blodgett said the $28 million includes approximately $1.7 million owed to the county by the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District. The district had until the end of September to pay the back taxes to the county, as ordered by a state Supreme Court judge. The district says it cannot pay the back taxes because it has no money and very little revenue.

Blodgett said the county’s final costs to close out the nursing home’s books could total as much as $1.5 million, which would have to come out of the fund balance, a pool of unspent money from previous budget years that the county uses for emergencies.

The committee’s recommendation, as it currently stands, would leave approximately $8 million in the fund balance. The state Comptroller’s Office recommends counties maintain their fund balances at approximately 14 percent of their budgets; Fulton County’s total stood at about 12 percent at the end of the last fiscal year.

The proposed budget does not include any cuts in personnel or services, but it also does not include any wage increases for members of three bargaining units, whose contracts have expired or will expire. County officials do not expect to conclude contract talks before the budget is adopted, and they said any salary adjustments thereafter would have to come from the fund balance.

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