Preliminary budget shows lower tax rate
SCHUYLER COUNTY--The tentative county budget for 2019 is now available for public review before a hearing, Tuesday, Nov. 13.
The 2019 budget of Schuyler County shows a reduction in both expenses (-0.34 percent) and revenue (-0.59 percent) over 2018. The budget is below the tax cap and has a tax rate decrease of 0.71 percent. This is the seventh consecutive year the tax rate has been reduced.
County Administrator and Budget Officer Tim O'Hearn said, "While this continues to be a tight spending plan, for the first time in my tenure, we are experiencing relief in our three largest cost centers: pension, Medicaid and health insurance."
O'Hearn explained the "Raise the Age" initiative represents both the largest unknown as well as the largest single increase in the budget ($500,000). "Raise the Age" changes the way youth offenders are treated by the New York justice system. New York was previously one of only two states that automatically prosecuted 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Youth who now commit non-violent crimes will receive age-appropriate housing and programming.
The county has been mandated by the New York State Corrections Commission to increase staffing in the jail by two positions according to O'Hearn. This results in an 11 percent increase for personnel costs for 2019.
O'Hearn said, "Overall, 2019 salary costs are increased by $725,302 compared to 2018 budget. There are four increases in positions; one in mental health (therapist, revenue generating), two in corrections (mandated) and one new probation officer (Raise the Age, fully funded by state). When factoring in revenue generated by positions that number is reduced to $615,302. Overall contractual salary increase averages 3 percent."
The tentative budget predicts an increase of $631,000 in sales tax revenue for 2019. New events in the area could help to push this number higher. The prediction does not anticipate any new large events at Watkins Glen International racetrack.
"As the administrative arm of NYS government, counties withstand far greater fiscal stress than other levels of local government," said O'Hearn. "In Schuyler County, with almost 75 percent of our budget being consumed with the delivery of state-mandated services, we have continued to succeed in the face of almost insurmountable challenges the past few years."
The tentative budget can be seen at http://www.schuylercounty.us/DocumentCenter/View/6726/2019-Tentative-Budget-. The public hearing will be held 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 13 at the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls.