Fulton County

Fulton County adopts budget below tax cap

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday night adopted an $88.7 million budget for 2016, dig

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday night adopted an $88.7 million budget for 2016, digging deeper into the county’s fund balance to bring taxes below the state’s cap.

Supervisors unanimously approved the budget, including the use of about $2 million more from the fund balance to bring the levy down to $27.6 million from the $29.3 million proposed in the tentative budget.

That comes in about $290,000 below the state’s cap, according to Budget Director Alice Kuntzsch. It also means an average tax decrease of about 6.3 percent around the county.

Most of the savings will be seen in the town of Caroga and city of Johnstown, however, which will have tax decreases of 21.7 percent and 30.2 percent, respectively, thanks to recent property assessment revaluations.

In most of the county’s other municipalities, the tax rate will decrease by about 0.5 percent. The town of Johnstown, however, will see a 1.1 percent rise, and Oppenheim will see a 1.4 percent rise.

The average tax rate works out to $10.15 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The total spending plan is up about $1 million from the current year, or 1.1 percent.

“I think that the supervisors worked very hard and did a great job on the budget, lowered the taxes,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Ralph Ottuso said Tuesday. “I think this year the supervisors did the best that they’ve ever done.”

According to County Treasurer Edgar T. Blodgett, the county currently has about $17.1 million in fund balance. The 2016 budget calls for the use of about $5.9 million.

Blodgett said he’s not concerned immediately, but wouldn’t want to use more.

“We’re pretty thankful that we had it to take,” he said. “There are a lot of counties that don’t have that kind of fund balance to use to reduce the tax levy.”

Ottuso was also unconcerned about the use of fund balance.

“Because the supervisors have done such a great job in creating a better fund balance, it’s time to give it back to the taxpayers and that’s exactly what we decided to do,” he said.

Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Greg Young, who was also the only supervisor to vote against a 2.75 percent pay raise for supervisors, said the use of fund balance was his “biggest concern” about the budget.

“It’s like the taxpayer savings account and we need to be very cautious,” he said Tuesday. “It’s good that the tax rate is low, but we don’t want to find ourselves increasing taxes down the road because we’ve spent all of our rainy-day fund.”

He said he would be against raises for supervisors as long as county residents are still struggling to get by.

The budget also restores $20,000 in funding for Cornell Cooperative Extension, which was scheduled to end in 2016 as part of a three-year phase-out of the program. The move would have cut county residents off from the popular 4H program for youth.

Ottuso said it was brought back, essentially, by popular demand.

“Everybody was behind it,” he said. “They thought it was a good program.”

The adopted budget also added about $578,000 to go to the city of Gloversville in the first year of the SMART Waters program, which will use excess water from the city to serve high-need areas of the county.

Reach Gazette reporter Kyle Adams at 764-4402, [email protected] or @KyleRAdams on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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