Fulton County’s tentative $88.5 million 2016 budget would raise local taxes by more than 5 percent for most of the county’s residents, with big breaks — up to 26 percent— for the residents of the city of Johnstown and the town of Caroga, thanks to recent revaluations.
The total spending plan, presented to the Board of Supervisors on Monday, is up about $1 million from the current year, or 1.1 percent.
While the average tax rate works out to a decrease of .6 percent, or 6 cents less per thousand dollars of assessed value, the total tax levy goes up about 8.1 percent from the current year for a total of about $29.3 million. That exceeds the state’s cap of .71 percent, according to Budget Director Alice Kuntzsch.
Kuntzsch said the tax levy would have to be brought down by about 1.4 million to get under the cap.
Recent property assessment revaluations in Johnstown and Caroga resulted in tentative tax rate decreases of 26 percent and 16.9 percent respectively, each working out to about $3 less per thousand.
In the towns of Oppenheim and Johnstown, the rate would climb by more than 7 percent. In the remaining municipalities, rates would rise by about 5.5 percent.
In her budget message, Kuntzsch said the proposal “reflects continued fiscal responsibility.”
“The Board of Supervisors, department heads and staff have demonstrated consistency and restraint by aligning expenses with revenues, while maintaining services that meet the needs of the community,” she wrote. “In recent years, leadership has made vast inroads in reducing the size of county government and maintaining a ‘pay as you go’ philosophy that successfully provided a foundation for fiscal health.”
The tentative budget projects a 6.25 percent increase in sales tax revenue, or about $800,000, continuing a general upward trend since 2011 after a decrease from 2014 to 2015.
The proposal cuts two positions in the Department of Social Services, adds a new civil engineer in the Planning Department.
It includes about $1.4 million for various projects in the county’s “Jump Start Fulton County” economic development program, like the SMART Waters initiative and the development and marketing of business and tech parks. The projects are intended to “promote new industrial, commercial and retail investments” in the county, according to Kuntzsch’s budget message.
It also invests about $2.23 million in infrastructure maintenance, including about $1 million from the general fund balance. In total, the tentative budget draws just over $3 million from the general fund, which Kuntzsch said will be reviewed by the Board of Supervisors “to determine the appropriate final amount to apply in the best interest of the taxpayers.”
The county’s contribution to Fulton-Montgomery Community College is set to increase by $100,000.
The tentative budget will now to go the Board of Supervisors for review and revisions. A public hearing has been scheduled for 2 p.m. on Nov. 23, and the board is expected to adopt the budget the same day.