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Preliminary budget includes 13% tax hike

October 5, 2012
By MICHAEL ANICH , The Leader Herald

JOHNSTOWN - Fulton County's preliminary $88 million budget for 2013 calls for a 13 percent average tax-rate increase for county property owners.

County Budget Director Alice Kuntzsch told supervisors Thursday they are in the "very beginning" of the budget-cutting process and still have things such as the fund balance to consider. She said she won't be releasing her tentative county budget to the full board until Nov. 12. The board usually adopts the final budget in late November or early December.

But with a projected 11 percent drop in revenue, officials realize they have their work cut out for them.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich
The Fulton County Board of Supervisors’ Finance Committee reviews preliminary 2013 county budget figures during a work session Thursday at the County Office Building in Johnstown.

"Obviously, we're over the [state-mandated] tax cap," Kuntzsch told the Board of Supervisors' Finance Committee, which reviewed the plan Thursday.

The county overrode the state's tax-levy cap in adopting the $93 million 2012 county budget. The Board of Supervisors on Aug. 13 also adopted a measure giving it the option of overriding the levy limit for 2013.

Kuntzsch said "rough figures" from the state show the county's "estimated" tax cap for 2013 will be about 2.52 percent. But she said some other exemptions and figures haven't been figured into the estimate yet, such as properties in the county that receive payment-in lieu-of-taxes deals.

The 2013 budget also won't include the $3.5 million that helped the 2012 budget from the sale of the former county Residential Health Care Facility.

The committee reviewed early budget numbers for more than two hours, deciding to meet again at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 17 at the County Office Building.

Supervisors cut about $40,000 off the proposed levy Thursday, and some adjustments to figures had to be made because supervisors recently approved non-union salary changes.

"All the payrolls had to be adjusted," Kuntzsch said.

The board in September adopted a local law setting salaries for non-union county department heads and elected officials in a five-year deal, giving them 1.5 percent to 2 percent increases the next two years.

Basic figures show a roughly $88 million county budget for 2013, with a $31.8 million taxy levy that's up by $4 million. Just under half of the levy goes to Medicaid costs. Revenues are expected to down by 11 percent, although about a 4 percent decrease in appropriations is anticipated.

Kuntzsch indicated the proposed levy increase is currently about 14.6 percent for next year. The average county property owner would see their tax rate increase by 13.4 percent, which equates to a rate of $13.12 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for 2013.

The county raised the average tax rate by 10.3 percent for 2011, and 5.5 percent for 2012.

One of the major problems this year is the county has to make up a roughly $3.5 million loss in "one-time" revenue that came from the sale of the former infirmary, which was reflected in the 2012 budget. Kuntzsch said that money, in essence, goes back on the levy and the county has to make up the difference.

"This the biggest part of the budget," Kuntzsch said. "This is the biggest impact on the budget for 2013."

County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said the county also can't count on too much sales tax for 2013. He said the county budgeted $16.8 million for 2012 and is only budgeting just over $17 million for 2013.

"We're still comparing against historically low sales tax," Stead said. "You're not back to normal."

The committee reviewed all the major parts of the budget for next year. Current county prices for vehicle fuel costs are $3.14 per gallon for unleaded gas and $3.35 for diesel, but the county is using $3.50 as a standard estimate for unleaded in 2013. Natural gas was budgeted at $429,000 for 2013, and Bleecker Supervisor David Howard requested a review of all the county's energy costs.

The preliminary budget maintains a request by the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth to increase its $25,000 annual allocation by the county to $75,000 for 2013.

Gloversville 1st Ward Supervisor Marie Born said she's aware "we have to support" the CRG, but some residents are unhappy its allocation is being tripled.

"They still feel they're not transparent enough," she said.

Among personnel cuts were two custodial positions and one account-clerk position.

The county's contribution to the Handicapped Children's program, which Kuntzsch says "just keeps growing," is up by $2.5 million for 2013.

The Fulton County Department of Social Services budget shows an 8.8 percent reduction off the tax levy - from $17.5 million from the levy for 2012 to about $16 million in 2013. DSS Commissioner Sheryda Cooper was praised by the budget director.

"She does a fabulous job really in trying to keep her budget low in the things she has control over," Kuntzsch said.

Michael Anich can be reached at johnstown@leaderherald.com.

 
 

 

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