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Schenectady County budget proposal calls for 1 percent tax cut

Schenectady County budget proposal calls for 1 percent tax cut

Funding for new programs included as well
Schenectady County budget proposal calls for 1 percent tax cut
The Schenectady County Legislature during Wednesday's meeting.
Photographer: BRETT SAMUELS

SCHENECTADY — The proposed Schenectady County 2018 budget calls for a 1 percent tax cut for residents, officials said Wednesday.

County Manager Kathleen Rooney presented her draft proposal of the 2018 budget, which includes the small tax cut and some additional programming and initiatives. Legislators will spend the next couple weeks reviewing the proposal, and must approve a final budget in the next month.

“This is not a one-year gimmick, this is a multi-year approach we’ve taken,” Rooney said, noting the county has decreased or kept property tax rates flat in recent years.

This is the first year the county will formulate a budget using actual data from Rivers Casino & Resort. In the months and years leading up to its opening, area officials said the facility’s revenues could help reduce property taxes.

The casino money was previously dedicated toward retiring existing debt, which enabled the county to keep its tax rate flat in 2017, Rooney said. In 2018, the gaming revenue will be applied to the county’s operating budget and will help produce the tax cut as a result.

The casino has thus far fallen short of expectations. The county budgeted $2.75 million for gaming revenue in 2017, but as of Sept. 1 has only gotten $1.3 million this year, with three months remaining.

As a result of the subpar performance, Rooney budgeted just over $2 million in gaming revenue in her 2018 proposal.

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Other highlights of the proposed 2018 Schenectady County budget include:

— $5.8 million to be used for improvements to the county library system. About $2.3 million of that money is earmarked for the new Mont Pleasant branch in Schenectady.

It will replace the existing branch on Crane Street, and offer expanded services and programming. Construction on the new structure is expected to begin in the spring. Once the new library is finished, the old one will be demolished to make way for additional parking.

Money is also expected to be invested in the Scotia library branch, Rooney said, and additional staffing at county libraries.

— Funding for a proposed “street crime” task force, which would be staffed by officers from local police departments and the county Sheriff’s Department. Details are still in the works, but the unit would focus on quality-of-life crimes like thefts and break-ins in problematic areas.

— $75,000 is budgeted to support the Capital Region Land Bank, which has put a focus on neighborhood revitalization in the Crane Street and Eastern Avenue corridors in the city. The Land Bank frequently collaborates with the city and county to demolish blighted buildings or return abandoned homes to the tax rolls.

— $4.1 million is budgeted in the county’s Capital Improvement Program for the resurfacing or repaving of roughly 50 miles of county highways.

— State and federal mandated costs are up overall in 2018, and could rise even more depending on developments at the federal level. Medicaid currently accounts for 47 percent of the county’s property tax levy, but could jump to nearly 50 percent of the levy if the county lost funding from the Affordable Care Act.

County legislators will review the budget during four scheduled meetings next week. In addition, there will be a public hearing on Oct. 10, where county residents can provide feedback on the document. The Legislature must then adopt a final budget by the end of October.

A copy of the proposed budget is available on the Schenectady County website.

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