Despite containing a controversial plan to sell the county’s Maplewood Manor nursing home, the 2013 Saratoga County budget was easily approved Wednesday by the county Board of Supervisors.
Democrat supervisors Preston Jenkins of Moreau and Joanne Yepsen of Saratoga Springs and Supervisor Patti Southworth, I-Ballston, voted against the budget, which passed by 19-3 at a meeting in Ballston Spa. All Republicans voted for the spending plan.
“It’s a sound financial plan,” said Supervisor John Lawler, R-Waterford.
The $300.5 million budget is actually down in total spending by about $5 million from this year, but nevertheless includes a 1.6 percent property tax increase. The increase is necessary, in part, because federal and state aid to the county are expected to fall in 2013.
The average county wide tax rate will be $2.27 per $1,000 assessed value, up by 4 cents from this year — for a $567.50 county tax bill on a home assessed at $250,000.
The budget includes early steps to sell Maplewood Manor, a 237-bed public nursing home in Ballston Spa that loses millions of dollars each year.
The budget assumes $6 million in revenue from transferring the nursing home to a local development corporation, which would borrow $6 million against future sale proceeds. A sale probably won’t be final until late 2014.
The privatization plan has been controversial. On Nov. 18 Maplewood Manor employees and family members of residents spoke out at a supervisors meeting. But none attended a public hearing on the proposed budget Dec. 3, and none attended Wednesday’s meeting.
Budget opponents cited the planned borrowing to cover Maplewood’s losses, and also having the budget include $4 million in revenue from a projected sale or lease of the county landfill.
Jenkins said, “We’re approving these appropriations and we don’t have the funds to do them. If we cut every department 2 percent, we would save the $6 million that we shouldn’t be borrowing.”
Southworth said, “Should the privatization of the landfill not go through, we would have a serious budget problem next year.”
But Lawler countered that the overwhelming majority of the budget is state-mandated services and programs that the county doesn’t have the authority to cut. “I would love to cut $10 million from this budget, but I just don’t see it as an alternative,” he said.
Law and Finance Committee Chairman Alan R. Grattidge, R-Charlton, oversaw that committee’s development of the budget, and is expected to chair the Board of Supervisors in 2013.
He said privatizing the nursing home and landfill both have to be done.
“The alternatives we were looking at were massive layoffs or massive tax increases, and neither was palatable to the Law and Finance Committee,” Grattidge said.