SARATOGA COUNTY — The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors approved a 2021 county budget Wednesday that will provide for a tax cut despite the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new budget totals more than $341 million, with the board having added a handful of new positions to the county workforce since the tentative budget was first proposed in November. It’s about $5 million more than the county is spending this year.
The budget calls for the average property tax rate in the county to drop from $2.26 per $1,000 — already among the lowest county tax rates in the state — to $2.23 per $1,000. That will cut the county tax on a $300,000 home by $9.
The main reason the rate is dropping is that the county tax base has continued to grow this year, with the county adding $1.4 billion to its tax base. There are no service cuts planned, and no provision for money from a federal stimulus bill that might reimburse the county for any of its additional pandemic-related costs.
During budget deliberations in the last few weeks, county supervisors added a $250,000 line item to help pay for a new grandstand at the Saratoga County Fair, with the money to be spent only if the fair can raise more than $1 million from other sources to fully fund the project. The aging wooden grandstand at the Ballston Spa fairground was demolished this fall due to deterioration, but fair officials want to replace it next year.
During deliberations held at a special meeting Wednesday in Ballston Spa, the board also approved creation of a full-time county public relations position, at a cost of $75,000. The position was approved by a split vote, with supervisors from large-population communities like Clifton Park, Halfmoon and Saratoga Springs able to get it passed over the objections of supervisors from smaller towns. The county used a weighted-voting system that gives large towns more voting power based on their populations.
The county currently contracts with Gramercy Communications for its public communications efforts. Those efforts have intensified this year as county officials have had to alert the public about COVID-19 issues, including potential public exposures being investigated by county Public Health Services.