Legislature adopts new, lower tax rate
SCHUYLER COUNTY--During a meeting that lasted less than an hour, the Schuyler County Legislature on Nov. 14 adopted the county's $46,125,520 budget for 2017.
A brief public hearing resulted in only one comment - "Thank you all" from a lone voice in the audience of about two dozen people. The thanks were apparently addressed to legislators and county department heads that made the 5.11 percent decrease in the tax rate possible, from $8.17 to $7.75 per $1,000 of assessed value next year.
The hearing also generated one question: "How much of the reduction in (Department of Social Services spending) is from a reduction in staff?"
"None," responded County Administrator Tim O'Hearn, noting that one case worker was actually added. "The reduction is coming from savings in the safety net dealing with the homeless population, as well as a slight Medicaid reduction, as opposed to huge increases. There's been other areas that put resources in to reduce cost."
None of the county's fund balance was used to fund this budget, he said.
The budget is well below the state tax cap by $320,842. The tax levy for 2017 is $11,058,944, an increase of $39,331 or .36 percent compared with this year. Total revenues are estimated at $35,066,576.
Appropriations and revenue are both higher in 2017 than in the current year, O'Hearn said.
His original budget proposal called for a 3.21 percent reduction in the tax levy. Following additional review and meetings with department heads, the legislature made further cuts that brought it to the 5.11 percent decrease.
In addition to lowering the tax rate, the legislature has allocated additional funding towards roads, O'Hearn said during his 35-minute presentation that ended with a brief video salute to county employees. As a non-mandated expense, roads is one of the first areas to be cut in difficult years, he said.
Schuyler's road plowing costs are a little more than $2,000 per mile, compared to a regional cost of $4,900 per mile, he said.
"This is largely due to the fact that we, like many other counties, not all, have gone to single-person plowing. Our staff have been very receptive to that. They've been trained. We're in our third or fourth year of doing that. Those are the types of savings you get as a result of that," O'Hearn said. "Not getting a lot of snow and lower fuel costs also helps."
Citizens and taxpayers have been well served, Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan said after the budget was adopted.
"You did a fine job, Tim. Speaking for the legislature, we certainly appreciate the hard effort of Tim and the department heads in preparing the budget," he said.
That sentiment was echoed by other members of the legislature, who congratulated O'Hearn and the department heads.
The public hearing and legislature meeting were adjourned after 50 minutes.