SCHENECTADY COUNTY – Declaring the county has “rebounded from the initial economic shock” of the coronavirus pandemic, County Manager Rory Fluman proposed a 2022 budget of nearly $342.7 million that would cut property taxes 1% compared to this year.
The 2022 tax levy, or amount to be raised by taxes, will be slightly more than $71 million, which represents a decrease of 1% from the 2021 adopted operating budget.
“This has been a good year,” Fluman told county Legislators during his presentation Monday night.
“By and large, much of our expense has been covered by state and federal government, which we’re more than thankful for.”
But in the future, Fluman said, the county will need to monitor its costs, particularly in public health.
Schenectady County Legislator Philip Fields, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, thanked Fluman and his staff for their “diligent hard work over the summer and beyond trying to just cope with this budget cycle and just dealing with the pandemic related to last year.”
The budget was also helped by the return of broad revenues to the county.
The tentative operating budget estimates sales tax receipts of $103.8 million, an increase of $8 million.
The decreased levy, Fluman said, restores the county’s track record over the past six budget years of keeping the tax rate flat.
County property taxes are 21 cents of the average dollar paid by property owners, although slightly less in the city and slightly higher in towns.
The 2022 budget assumes use of about $6 million in surplus and reserve funding to balance the estimated shortfall in revenues.
Fluman said the county has maintained a favorable Aa1 bond rating from Moody’s Investors Services,the second-highest ratings that can be assigned to debt and an indicator of the creditworthiness of the bond issuer.
The 2022 budget also sets out on a “robust schedule of capital investments” to update and maintain infrastructure, after improvements to county buildings, equipment and road projects were reduced this year due to the pandemic and financial uncertainties.
The 2022 budget calls for $18.5 million in transportation appropriations for roads and bridges, an increase of $1.6 million, with about 60 miles of preventative maintenance and 20 miles of surface treatments or “new roads” to be paved in 2022, according to proposal.
The 2022 budget also proposes continuation of opioid treatment programs and Narcan training for county staff and community members, increases the county’s contribution to SUNY Schenectady Community College for a seventh consecutive year, by 2%, with $2.4 million in capital projects and a $1.5 million contribution to its debt service.
The county plan also calls to continue home-delivered and congregate meals, at-home personal care services and medical transportation services to senior citizens and those in long-term care.
The budget assumes $2.75 million in host gaming revenue, with all casino earnings directed toward stabilizing taxes.
The 2022 plan is a reversal from this year’s $327.5 million budget, which for the first time in four years raised property taxes as a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The existing year’s spending plan had a 1.95% property tax hike in large part because of shrinking sales tax and casino revenue.
The county spans the city of Schenectady, towns of Duanesburg, Glenville, Niskayuna, Princetown and Rotterdam, and villages of Delanson and Scotia, encompassing 155,000 residents, 3,000 businesses and 209 square miles.
The positive financial status of the county early in the pandemic enabled the Legislature to authorize emergency spending for pandemic response activities, Fluman said. Once vaccination efforts began, county government delivered the highest adult vaccination rate in the Capital Region and the second highest rate per county in the state, he said.
The county has embarked on an aggressive push to supply 31,000 vaccine doses, while 453 people had been vaccinated by the county in their homes through a delivery service, the manager said.
Anthony Jasenski, chairman of the Schenectady County Legislature, commended Fluman and his team for “their diligence crafting a budget that reflects the Legislature’s priorities of delivering vital services to our residents while holding the line on taxes.”
The proposed 2022 budget will be the subject of three review meetings this week, followed by an Oct. 12 public hearing, with budget consideration planned for Oct. 13.