Proposed Executive Budget Stays Under Tax Cap, While Keeping Critical County Services In Tact
FONDA — On Friday, County Executive Matthew L. Ossenfort submitted his Executive Budget for fiscal year 2017 to the Office of the Legislature. The proposed $111.2 million budget remains under the New York State Property Tax Cap, which allowed for only an increase of $260,000 or 0.93 percent. In addition to staying under the tax cap, the proposed Executive Budget continues to make the critical investments needed to continue moving the county forward.
The proposed budget includes $79.4 million in anticipated revenues (excluding tax levy), an increase of $1.5 million more than the 2016 Adopted Budget, however costs continue to rise at a much faster rate. The Executive Budget includes $3.8 million in use of fund balance.
“This budget presents a mixed bag of news,” Ossenfort stated. “I’m encouraged that private sector job growth in the county is up and unemployment is the lowest it’s been in nearly 10 years. However, we had to make some difficult choices. Due to the fact that the tax cap has been below one percent the past two years, counties around the state, including here in Montgomery, are finding it more and more difficult put together a fiscally sound budget, especially when appropriations continue to increase and revenues remain relatively static.”
Ossenfort’s goal has been tax stabilization moving forward, eliminating large fluctuations, while continuing to make investments and upgrades where appropriate. A proposed tax increase of less than one percent would be the third straight year the county has stayed under the tax cap and result in a reduction in the tax increase for a second straight year.
Since it was established, in 2012, the state’s Property Tax Cap has slowed the growth of property tax levies. The implementation of the cap has forced local governments to make tough decisions and according to the New York State Association of Counties, more than 10 percent of counties have been unable to stay under the tax cap over the past five years. If this current trend continues, more counties will be forced to either cut vital services or override the tax cap to increase the tax levy.
The County Executive has worked with the County Legislature through the beginning stages of this budget process, holding joint budget meetings with Department Heads and putting a precedent on having an open dialogue about all budgetary issues.
“The start of this process has been one where the Executive and the Legislature are working together, with the goal of adopting a fiscally responsible budget for county taxpayers,” said Budget & Finance Committee Chairman Thomas L. Quackenbush, Legislator, District 2. “I firmly believe that over the next month there will be more productive teamwork and the end product will be a county budget that the County Legislature and County Executive are satisfied with and ultimately works for taxpayers of Montgomery County.”
“I appreciate the County Executive working with the Sheriff’s Office through the budget process to formulate a budget that provides this office with much needed funding for critical projects, while making compromises to hold the line for taxpayers,” said Sheriff Michael J. Amato.
“I want to thank the County Executive for continuing to invest in public safety initiatives which help keep residents of this county safe,” Emergency Services Director Jeffery T. Smith said. “This commitment to public safety shows that it is a top priority. With additional resources and by utilizing grant monies, the Emergency Management department will be able to purchase a replacement vehicle and fund a shared rescue and dive operation, better equipping the office to handle a multitude of emergency situations. By working together, as a team, I believe the Executive Budget balances tough choices with smart investments.”
“I applaud the County Executive for working with the Department of Social Services to help put together a budget that is fiscally sensible and also ensures services are available for our most vulnerable residents,” said Social Services Commissioner Michael McMahon. “A number of our program areas have been rising in recent years, which makes it difficult to pinpoint and project future costs. The opiate epidemic, in particular, has dramatically increased our foster care case numbers, making it more challenging for our department. We are optimistic that the Executive Budget addresses the needs of child welfare and family assistance in the county. I am hopeful that the employment outlook continues in the positive direction it has been going in, while will help reduce the Safety Net caseload.”
Per the Montgomery County Charter, the Executive Budget must be filed with the Clerk of the County Legislature by Sept. 5. The County Executive and County Treasurer will meet with the Budget & Finance Committee on Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 4 p.m., in the Legislative Chambers, to review the proposed budget.