BALLSTON SPA — Saratoga County appears to have successfully navigated the financial challenges associated with the coronavirus pandemic, Administrator Steve Bulger said in introducing the 2022 spending plan.
Saratoga County’s proposed operating budget of $381.5 million for 2022, an increase from the 2021 adopted budget of $370.3 million, anticipates a property tax reduction for property owners, Bulger said.
The spending plan calls for more than $4 million in new investments in the sheriff’s and district attorney’s offices – for body cameras, judicial discovery laws, officer training, and mandated jail programs – and more than $3 million to support health and human services initiatives and the county’s transition of its public health services department to a full-service Department of Health.
The county has yet to release property tax rate information, as it waits for all of its towns and cities to send assessments and property tax levy information, the county said in a recent statement.
But the county expects to once again lower the property tax rate for the 2022 budget and stay within the property tax cap, continuing to have the lowest county property tax rate in New York State.
The 2021 average property tax rate of $2.23 per $1,000 was a reduction of 3 cents per $1,000 from the previous year – about a $9 cut in county property taxes on a home assessed at $300,000.
The county attributes its projected plan to lower the tax rate to increasing property values and new construction across the county.
“I am pleased to report the County remains in excellent fiscal shape as we rebound from the challenges associated with the pandemic,” Bulger’s budget statement read. “This is in large part due to the fiscally conservative approach that County leadership has maintained for decades, and that forms the basis for the strong growth we enjoy, which is especially remarkable when compared with almost all other Upstate counties across our state.”
Sales tax receipts are expected to be approximately $141 million by year’s end. The figure will be used as the baseline sales tax revenue for 2022.
Included in the budget is an expected $22 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, the same amount the county received this year.
As such, it will designate $5 million as lost revenue and the remaining $17 million will be used for targeted projects and to offset increased expenditures the county faces due to the new Public Safety and Public Health requirements, which will only partly be offset by associated additional revenues.
The federal money will also replenish the decrease in fund balance due to lost revenues related to COVID-19 spending. It will also help provide a substantial buffer in the event of an economic downturn or other unexpected disruptions.
In addition to public safety and health and human services, the budget also proposes significant investments in infrastructure, open space and conservation.
The tentative budget makes available $5 million in community support grants and devotes another $1 million to economic development and tourism for the county.
A board of supervisors budget workshop is planned for Nov. 10. A public hearing on the tentative budget with amendments is Nov. 30.
Adoption of the budget is planned for Dec. 8.
Theodore T. Kusnierz, Jr., town of Moreau supervisor and chairman of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors, said the budget exemplified how the county’s fiscally conservative approach to governing benefits residents.
“With the lowest tax rate in New York State and a strong local economy, we expect to not only reduce the property tax rate but also make significant investments in critical areas across the county,” Kusnierz said.
“These range from infrastructure improvements that will enhance traffic safety and improve municipal services to health and human services and public safety investments that will keep Saratoga County one of the safest and healthiest counties in the state,” he said.
Clifton Park Supervisor and Chair of the Saratoga County Law & Finance Committee, Jonathan Schopf, said, “Here in Saratoga County, we held steadfast through the pandemic and have rebounded with strength and resilience. Our fiscally responsible policies have laid the foundation for strong economic consistency and our population growth helped to fuel our increased revenues that allow us to keep taxes low while making investments to maintain the quality of life we enjoy in Saratoga County.”
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.