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Fulton County sets $93.5M tentative 2020 budget

Fulton County Budget Director Alice Kuntzsch lays out the county's tentative 2020 budget for the Board of Supervisors Tuesday at the County Office Building in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton County’s $93.5 million tentative budget for 2020 carries an average property tax rate increase of 3 percent across the county, but the tentative levy hike is below the state tax cap.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday at the County Office Building voted 19-0 to accept the tentative spending plan.

Final budget adoption is expected later this month. A public hearing on the tentative budget was set for 1:30 p.m. Nov. 25 in the Supervisors’ Chambers at the County Office Building. The board set a budget workshop for 10 a.m. Monday at the County Office Building. The county’s tentative tax levy is projected at $30.9 million.

“Human services is the largest part of the budget and the most significant as far as the tax levy,” said county Budget Director Alice Kuntzsch.

Supervisors are proposing 2.6 percent raises for themselves in 2020. The chairman’s salary would rise from $10.942 to $11,226; and all other 19 supervisors would see their salaries increase from $8,313 to $8,529.

Kuntzsch presented the tentative budget, whose appropriations for 2020 total about $93.5 million. The average county tax rate would be $11.08 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, representing a 2.97 percent increase from the 2019 county budget. That represents an increase of 32 cents per $1,000 from the current 2019 average county tax rate of $10.76 per $1,000.

But Kuntzsch said the tentative tax levy hike of 3.7 percent would be below the state tax cap of 3.9 percent. She used a property owner of a home assessed at $120,000 as a reference point, saying that person’s tax bill would go up by $38 next year.

City of Gloversville taxpayers would see their rates up by 2.78 percent under the tentative plan, while city of Johnstown rates would increase by 1.95 percent. Overall, increasing tentative rates vary in the county, from 1.78 percent in the town of Ephratah to 5.16 percent in the town of Stratford.

Fulton County has “conservatively” applied about $2.45 million in general fund balance to help balance the budget at this point, Kuntzsch said.

Kuntzsch said the tentative budget indicates only a $116,088 or .01 percent increase in appropriations from the current 2019 county budget. Federal and state aid to Fulton County is expected to increase by $830,272, or about 4 percent, next year.

Personnel costs make up a significant portion of the tentative budget, about 43 percent, with an increase of 2 percent or $1.6 million earmarked over 2019. The Fulton County Sheriff Office Employees Alliance contract terminates next month.

“Public safety has always been a priority for the Fulton County Board of Supervisors,” Kuntzsch said.

New positions have included corporal deputy sheriff, special patrol officer and EMS coordinator, she said.

Kuntzsch said some of Fulton County’s fiscal health is based on total assessed valuation of property, or TAV, which has “remained essentially flat.”

“County budgets ate still impacted by state mandates,” she said.

She said 74 percent of the county’s 2020 tax levy is made up of: Medicaid, Public Assistance/Safety net, child welfare, preschool special education, Early Intervention program, probation, indigent defense, youth detention, and pensions.

Along with public safety matters, Kuntzsch said the Board of Supervisors continues ongoing discussions for the best plan to address emergency medical services within the county.

Kuntzsch said county reserves continue to be a “valuable tool” to maintain physical assets and promote economic development. Tax on hotel room occupancy revenue of $230,726 has been budgeted to offset a larger portion of the county’s Tourism Promotion Program. Investments in capital projects for 2020 include $675,000 specifically earmarked for economic development and new land development.

Development of the 2020 county budget began in June, with department heads filing their preliminary budget requests with Kuntzsch’s office in July. At that stage, the county’s requested budget reflected an 18.2 percent county tax levy increase.

In a message to the board in the budget, Kuntzsch wrote: “The 2020 tentative budget is a balanced financial plan that maintains a solid fiscal foundation for the county and is within the New York state tax cap.”

Fulton County’s tentative 2020 budget tax rates proposed for municipalities, and their increases, follow:

∫ City of Gloversville: $8.87 per $1,000 of assessed valuation; 24 cents or 2.78 percent increase.

∫ City of Johnstown: $8.91 per $1,000; 17 cents or 1.95 percent increase.

∫ Town of Bleecker: $8.60 per $1,000; 21 cents or 2.5 percent increase.

∫ Town of Broadalbin: $10.41 per $1,000; 22 cents or 2.16 percent increase.

∫ Town of Caroga: $13.90 per $1,000; 27 cents or 1.98 percent increase.

∫ Town of Ephratah: $12.61 per $1,000; 22 cents or 1.78 percent increase.

∫ Town of Johnstown: $13.65 per $1,000; 57 cents or 4.36 percent increase.

∫ Town of Mayfield: $13.04 per $1,000; 63 cents or 5.08 percent increase.

∫ Town of Northampton: $13.06 per $1,000; 24 cents or 1.87 percent increase.

∫ Town of Oppenheim: $18.39 per $1,000; 34 cents or 1.88 percent increase.

∫ Town of Perth: $17.86 per $1,000; 81 cents or 4.75 percent increase.

∫ Town of Stratford: $8.77 per $1,000; 43 cents or 5.16 percent increase.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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