Schoharie County

Schoharie County to boost tax levy 2.4%

Board of Supervisors approves $90.7M budget for 2019
A rendering of the new Schoharie County Jail under construction
A rendering of the new Schoharie County Jail under construction

SCHOHARIE COUNTY — The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors passed resolutions Tuesday to enact a $90.7 million spending plan for 2019.

The budget raises the county’s property tax levy by 2.4 percent, or $516,726, bringing it to a total of $22,049,000.

The plan increases year-over-year spending by $1.4 million, thanks to several major cost increases: 

  • $900,000 to hire 24 new correction officers for the new jail the county is building to replace a jail destroyed in 2011 by Tropical Storm Irene. 
  • $503,000 more for health insurance costs, which includes the 24 new corrections officers. 
  • $900,000 more for debt service, which includes the county’s decision to lengthen the term of an $8.5 million bond to 10 years. 
  • $280,000 more to bring the county into compliance with new state mandates regarding indigent legal defense services. That money will create a full-time public defender office, taking public defender Suzanne Graulich from part- to full-time and hiring an administrative assistant for the office. 

County Administrator Steven Wilson said the Board of Supervisors was able to keep the budget increase below the state-set limit for property tax increases. The plan also cuts $600,000 in spending on some line items, such as new equipment purchases, including for the county Department of Public works, and by trimming “nearly every contract” the city has. 

“Just about every department got cut, and these cuts were pretty brutal,” Wilson said.

Wilson said county officials attempted to get some reduction in the number of correction officers required for the new jail, but the state would not agree. He said the state requires the new officers because the jail is configured differently than the county’s old jail and now includes a section for female inmates.

“The county has also reduced our corrections staff by attrition during these years we haven’t had a jail,” Wilson said. 

One item not included in the budget was a 2 percent raise for the county’s CSEA union members, which would equate to about $332,000 more in spending that would take effect if the county settles its union contract in 2019. Wilson said the county is going to get additional “off-budget” revenue of $700,000 from the New York state Power Authority, as a result of a settlement with an hydroelectric dam owner, and that revenue should pay for the raises — at least for 2019 — if they occur. 

The budget also spends $2.8 million of the county’s fund balance, its reserve of unspent tax revenue from previous budget years, which Wilson said should leave it with about $14 million in reserves at the beginning of the 2020 budget process. 

The spending plan anticipates $15.9 million in sales tax revenue, which is about as much as the county expects to come in this year. Wilson said the Board of Supervisors has typically estimated less in sales tax revenue than has actually been collected in recent years.

He said the 2019 budget is expected to be the year the county begins the process of reducing the approximately $6 million gap between sales tax and property tax, a much worse ratio than in many rural counties. 

“This is the budget where we really begin to rely less heavily on the property tax levy,” he said.

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