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Saratoga County budget cuts taxes

Saratoga County budget cuts taxes

Average tax rate drops from $2.29 to $2.26 per $1,000
Saratoga County budget cuts taxes
Saratoga County Administrator Spencer Hellwig
Photographer: Erica Miller

SARATOGA COUNTY -- Saratoga County's average property tax rate would drop 1.68 percent under a proposed 2019 county budget unveiled Wednesday.

The average rate would drop from $2.29 to $2.26 per $1,000 of full-value assessment, due in large part to the county's having added $1.3 billion to its property tax base, County Administrator Spencer P. Hellwig said. It would be the second consecutive year of property tax cuts; this year, the rate dropped by a penny, from $2.30 to $2.29 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The cut in the county tax bill for a home assessed at $200,000 would be $6.

Most of the growth in the tax base, which now totals $26.8 billion, is due to new growth, especially in communities like Halfmoon where residential and commercial growth is occurring; the most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimate is that the county has nearly 230,000 residents, an increase of 10,000 since 2010.

"There's just been staggering growth in the county, which is a good thing," Hellwig said at a press conference in Ballston Spa to announce the budget proposal.

Overall spending would total $314.7 million, down from $319.6 million in this year's budget. Total spending is down because this year's budget includes a one-time allocation of $15 million toward a new public safety building, now under construction at the county complex in Milton.

"We still enjoy one of the lowest tax rates of all New York's 62 counties, as we have for the last 30 years," said Halfmoon Supervisor Kevin Tollisen, vice chairman of the county Board of Supervisors. "This county is the strongest, financially, in New York state."

The primary source of revenue is the county's 3 percent sales tax, which Hellwig said is budgeted to bring in $124.2 million, about half of which is shared with towns, villages and cities.

The budget includes just over $1 million to fund a full year of school resource officers, 11 sheriff's deputies who will work to improve school safety in nine of the county's school districts. The county will pay 25 percent of the cost of the resource officer program, with the participating school districts providing 75 percent. The resource officer program was begun earlier this year, in the wake of high school shootings in Florida and Texas.

The plan also includes $1.2 million for economic development, including $775,000 from the county's room occupancy tax to support the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership -- the county's affiliated economic development organization -- and $415,000 for the county's two chambers of commerce, which handle tourism advertising and other promotions.

The budget calls for spending $10.2 million on capital projects, including spending $5.8 million to repave or reconstruct 18.4 miles of county road. Guideboard Road in Halfmoon, Vischer Ferry Road in Clifton Park, East Line Road in Ballston and Malta, Malta Avenue in Malta, Jockey Street in Galway and Barkersville Road in Providence are all scheduled for work.

The spending plan proposes 2 percent raises for county employees, in keeping with the terms of a negotiated but not yet finalized contract with the Civil Service Employees Association, which represents most county workers. Historically, the percentage raises awarded to union members are also given to management.

Tollisen, who under the county's Republican-controlled leadership system is scheduled to become chairman of the Board of Supervisors in 2019, said he anticipates the county will have a special recognition during the year for the county's 80,000 senior citizens, but didn't provide any details.

The tentative budget revealed on Wednesday will be reviewed by the Board of Supervisors during November. A public hearing on the budget will be held at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, at the county boardrooms in Ballston Spa. A budget adoption vote is scheduled for Dec. 12.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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