The Fulton County Board of Supervisors voted Monday to begin the county’s budget process, using a tentative budget showing a 29.8 percent property tax levy increase to support the county’s first budget to top $100 million.
Fulton County Budget Director Alice Kuntzsch said the 2009 tentative budget totals $100.1 million, up about 3.4 percent from the 2008 adopted budget of $96.8 million. She said more money will be required from property taxpayers this year to offset other revenue losses caused by the economic downturn.
“Sales tax revenue has been projected at a 3 percent, $350,000, decrease and lower interest rates on a declining fund balance resulted in a 39 percent, $350,000, reduction in interest on deposits and investment revenue,” Kuntzsch told the board.
Property tax rates per $1,000 of assessed property value vary across the different municipalities in Fulton County due to differing levels of property tax equalization, the formula used to compensate for properties without up-to-date assessments.
Because of a recent property tax revaluation, property owners in Gloversville would get a 4.78 percent rate reduction under the tentative budget, falling from $9.42 to $8.97 per $1,000 assessed property value. Most properties are now assessed at a higher value, though, due to the revaluation, so individual property owners actually may have to pay more, despite the lower tax rate.
At the other end of the spectrum, property owners in Northampton are facing a whopping 39.13 percent tax rate hike.
On average, municipalities would see a county property tax rate increase of 22.34 percent, according to the tentative budget.
Fulton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael Rooney said the board will likely lower the property tax increases before adopting the budget; the state deadline for submitting the final 2009 budget is Dec. 20.
“I would like to emphasize that we haven’t done the fund balance application yet or revised the capital plan. You’re going to see a significant drop [in the property tax increase] at that time,” Rooney said. “If you equated this to a baseball game, this is the sixth inning. There’s quite a bit to go, don’t get excited.”
According to Kuntzsch’s calculations, the tentative budget relies on 33.3 percent of revenues coming from state and federal aid, down from 36.5 percent in the current year. County officials said they await further information from Gov. David Paterson on Nov. 18, when he’s expected to detail cuts to state aid.
“I anticipate we’re going to do a lot better [with state aid] than a lot of our neighboring counties,” Rooney said.
Fulton County’s 2009 tentative budget calls for $23.2 million in property tax levy, which is 62 percent of the county’s constitutional property tax limit. Section 10 of Article VII of the state constitution limits the amount counties can increase property taxes in any fiscal year, exclusive of money used to pay debt service, to 1.5 percent of the five-year average full value of taxable real estate in the county. The property tax limit for 2009 is $37.4 million in Fulton County.
Broadalbin Supervisor Lee Hollenbeck said it was ridiculous that most of the county’s budget goes to pay for state-mandated programs but the state also limits the amount the county can raise taxes to pay for them.
“All we’ve got to work with are the non-mandated programs and that’s a very small percentage of our budget. How we got in this mess, I do not know,” Hollenbeck said. “I think the recent federal election shows [the majority of voters now] want the government to be everything and anything for everybody.”
County officials estimate only 36 percent of the 2008 county budget went to pay for programs not mandated by New York state.
Supervisors also voted Monday to freeze their own salaries at 2008 levels, $7,900 per year and $10,400 for the chairman, and agreed to set the date for the public hearing on the budget for 2 p.m. on Nov. 24.