SCHENECTADY COUNTY -- Schenectady County will see spending rise by $6 million in 2020 but no increase in property taxes under a tentative budget presented to the County Legislature on Tuesday.
"The Legislature continues to hold the line on taxes, with 2020 being the fifth consecutive budget with either a tax cut or no increase," said Legislature Chairman Anthony Jasenski Jr., D-Rotterdam.
Taxes were held steady in 2019, after a 1 percent cut in 2018, and steady taxes in the two years before that.
The proposed budget totals $336,281,273, up from this year's $330.1 million, but the actual amount to be raised by property taxes remains at $70.4 million, the same as this year. The actual tax rates in the city and towns may rise or fall compared with 2019, depending on changes in their assessed property values, but those rates won't be calculated until later.
The largest local source of revenue will be sales tax, at an estimated $100.9 million. Among other sources of revenue is $2,925,000 expected from a share of revenue from the Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady. The county also receives state grants, including a $950,000 grant for sustainability projects, including the county's plan to get all its energy for its operations from solar power by the end of 2020. The grant will allow the county to hire a sustainability coordinator.
This was the first budget prepared by County Manager Rory Fluman, a former legislator who became manager last spring following the retirement of Kathleen Rooney.
“Our appropriations are up slightly, but that doesn’t mean our need for taxes is going up," Fluman said.
The budget continues funding for all existing county programs and special events.
Among spending increases, Fluman said, the county expects to hire three additional people in its Public Health Department to work on a new state-mandated lead exposure prevention requirement, and the District Attorney's Office will need an additional person to deal with bail reform changes. Medicaid costs, he said, continue to be the county's largest local expense. Cybersecurity upgrades are also planned.
Capital proposals include $2.55 million for repairs at SUNY Schenectady County Community College, including creation of a welcome center in Elston Hall and roof replacements. There are also plans to replace the furnace at the Schenectady County Public Library's main library in downtown Schenectady.
Fluman said the county also plans to spend $16.6 million on road and bridge projects, with much of that work being reimbursed by federal and state funds. Projects scheduled for construction include the Rosendale and River roads roundabout in Niskayuna, a paving and sidewalk project on Highbridge and East Campbell roads in Rotterdam, and safety improvements at Nott Street and Balltown Road in Niskayuna.
Fluman said a recent report from the state Comptroller's Office showed that Schenectady County is under no fiscal stress, with no indications it could be in the future. “Even the state comptroller has designated that Schenectady County finances are in good shape," Fluman said.
The Legislature will be holding a series of workshops over the next two weeks to review the budget in detail. Plans call for a public hearing on the budget in the board chambers at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8, and for action on the budget at a special meeting of the Legislature on Oct. 15.