SCHENECTADY COUNTY — County property taxes will fall about 1 percent next year under the $319.8 million budget adopted unanimously Wednesday night by the County Legislature.
The spending plan calls for a drop in the tax levy of $1.3 million, even though county spending next year will be up about $1.2 million. The county is expecting to receive about $2 million in new revenue from the Rivers Casino & Resort, which opened last February and will be open for its first full year in 2018.
In 2017, the county held taxes steady, with legislators hoping that the casino revenue would allow a tax cut in the coming year, 2018.
“Our reduction of one percent is not a one-time reduction. We believe it is sustainable. It is a good, sustainable budget,” said Democrat Majority Leader Gary E. Hughes of Schenectady.
Both members of the Republican minority voted to approve the budget, as well as $14.3 million in capital spending.
“I find it very hard to vote against a budget that has a tax decrease, although spending is up,” said Republican Brian McGarry of Rotterdam.
The Legislature acted the night after a public hearing at which several political candidates in Glenville or Rotterdam urged the county to share more of its sales tax revenue with the towns because they’re experiencing rising costs.
Legislators didn’t respond at the public hearing, but on Wednesday — with almost no members of the public present — Hughes called the existing sales tax distribution agreement “a good agreement,” and urged the towns to find ways to reduce their costs instead of asking the county to give them more sales tax money.
The budget includes funding for several new initiatives:
- A Street Crime Interdiction Task Force will be set up to focus on combating crime at the local neighborhood level. There will be money for an expansion and upgrade to the public safety camera system. It is expected to receive about $2 million in funding.
- The Capital Region Land Bank will receive $75,000 to support its neighborhood revitalization efforts, which has primarily focused on the Crane Street and Eastern Avenue areas of Schenectady.
- Construction will begin on the new $2.4 million county library on Crane Street in Mont Pleasant, and renovations will also be done at the Scotia branch library.
There are also plans for new fuel tanks at the county public works complex that will be shared with the towns of Rotterdam, Princetown and a local fire district, and plans to expand the county’s use of solar power. County officials want county buildings to be energy-independent by 2020.
A number of legislators spoke in praise of the budget prior to the vote.
“When we reduce the property tax one percent everyone in the county who pays property tax benefits,” said Legislator Karen Johnson, D-Schenectady.
The tax cut will appear in the county property tax bills set to property owners in January.