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What you need to know for 08/23/2017

Budget tweaks to reduce Saratoga County property tax rate hike

Budget tweaks to reduce Saratoga County property tax rate hike

Saratoga County officials have found $500,000 in new savings and additional revenue to reduce the pr

Saratoga County officials have found $500,000 in new savings and additional revenue to reduce the proposed 2013 property tax increase.

County taxes were initially proposed to rise 2.5 percent, and will instead need to rise just under 1.6 percent, said county Law and Finance Committee Chairman Alan R. Grattidge, R-Charlton.

That means the average county wide tax rate will increase by 4 cents per $1,000 of assessed value rather than the previously proposed 6 cents, Grattidge said at a budget review meeting Thursday.

The average county wide tax rate would now be $2.27 per $1,000, meaning the county tax bill on a $250,000 house would be $567.

The proposed 2013 budget released last week totals $301 million, down 1.6 percent from this year’s spending plan. County officials said they took a variety of budget-tightening measures to reduce costs in 2013, but couldn’t avoid a tax increase.

“The property tax increase is largely driven by reductions in state aid and by state mandates,” said County Administrator Spencer Hellwig.

Grattidge said Thursday that two developments in the last week are allowing the county to go with a smaller tax increase.

On Wednesday, the county Personnel and Insurance Committee recommended most of the county’s health insurance coverage be moved from Blue Shield of Northeastern New York to Empire Blue Cross. The shift will save the county about $402,000 a year in health insurance premiums to cover about 1,200 county employees and 600 retirees.

The insurance will still cost the county about $25.8 million, making employee health insurance one of the county’s largest expenses.

In the second development, the Law and Finance Committee voted to accept as additional revenue the $98,580 the county sewer district is offering the county for 15 acres at the county landfill site in Northumberland.

The sewer district, with a budget separate from the general county budget, wants the site as the location for a new sewage treatment plant. The sewer district budget is supported primarily by charges to sewer users, and isn’t funded by property taxes.

The only other change to the budget approved by the committee was addition of an evening cleaner at the county sewage treatment plant in Halfmoon.

The salary for the cleaner will be about $35,000, with the money coming from the sewer district budget.

The proposed county budget will be discussed by the full Board of Supervisors at a workshop at 3 p.m. Thursday in Ballston Spa. A public hearing will be held at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 3, in the county boardrooms in Ballston Spa. The budget is scheduled for adoption Dec. 12.

Highlights of the budget include the county going forward with plans to sell the Maplewood Manor nursing home by forming a local development corporation that could borrow next year to cover $6 million of the infirmary’s deficit. A 40-bed wing of the infirmary would also be closed as a cost-saving measure.

The proposed budget also includes $4 million in new revenue anticipated from the expected sale or lease of the unused county landfill to a private landfill operator.

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