Schenectady County

Schenectady County budget calls for property tax freeze

The proposed Schenectady County budget for 2017 calls for a property tax freeze thanks to an influx
Schenectady County leaders look on during a presentation of the proposed 2017 budget. The tentative budget, shared Monday night, calls for a property tax freeze.
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Schenectady County leaders look on during a presentation of the proposed 2017 budget. The tentative budget, shared Monday night, calls for a property tax freeze.

The proposed Schenectady County budget for 2017 calls for a property tax freeze thanks to an influx of casino money, the county manager said Monday.

County Manager Kathleen Rooney presented her tentative budget to the legislature during Monday night’s legislature meeting, highlighting expected sources of revenue and planned improvements in the county. The proposal, if adopted later this month, would mean residents would see no increase or even a decrease in property taxes from the county.

The county budget totals $318.59 million, with a property tax levy of $71.14 million.

The 298-page document reviews various sources of revenue and costs the county can expect. One key focus is on Rivers Casino & Resort, which is expected to open in early 2017 along Erie Boulevard. In addition to receiving $2.5 million in a licensing fee, Schenectady County will receive 5 percent of the gaming revenue collected by New York state since it is the host community.

“The County Legislature has committed that all casino revenues be used to provide a direct offset to property taxes,” the budget states.

In order to accomplish this, the budget proposal calls for a two-pronged strategy moving forward. Rooney’s budget calls for the first year of casino revenues to be used to pay off a portion of the county’s existing debt, which enables 2017’s property tax freeze, and would provide annual cost reductions of almost $900,000 in 2018 and following years.

In order to factor casino revenues into the budget proposal, the county looked at the Rivers Casino economic impact study. It used the low end of the first year estimated revenue range, which amounted to $3.3 million, and prorated it to a March 1 opening.

Other forms of revenue expected to bolster the 2017 budget include growth in sales tax and mortgage recording tax, according to the document.

The most significant expense noted in Rooney’s proposal is Medicaid, which costs the county about $33 million, even with the federal government taking on $2.2 million in 2017.

“New York remains the only state to require a share of the Medicaid program costs be borne by property taxpayers,” the budget states. “If the total non-federal share of Medicaid were paid by New York State as is done in other states, Schenectady County’s property tax could be reduced by 46 percent.”

Employee health care costs and expenses associated with correctional services are also noted as sources of increased costs for the county in 2017.

The budget also notes capital improvement projects, including upgrades to the county courthouse, county correctional facility and county recreational facility. In addition, the 2017 budget proposal sets aside $4.1 million to enable the paving or resurfacing of 50 miles of county highways.

The legislature will review the proposed budget during several meetings over the next few weeks, and a public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 17. The legislature is scheduled to vote on adopting the budget on Oct. 18.

The county manager’s full proposed budget can be viewed online here.

Reach Gazette reporter Brett Samuels at 395-3113, [email protected] or @Brett_Samuels27 on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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