Taxes up two percent in first county budget


By David Avitabile

Schoharie County’s finance committee will begin work next week on a proposed $78.5 million budget that increases the tax levy by 1.87 percent.
Though the levy increase is almost exactly half of the hike for 2017, it is still above the state tax cap of .26 percent, according to county Administrator Steve Wilson.
The state tax cap would have only allowed the county to increase spending by slightly over $56,000.
“There was no chance” that the county could get under the tax cap, Mr. Wilson said.
The spending plan has been delivered to all 16 supervisors and now goes to the finance committee for its changes and recommendations. A public hearing will be held on Monday, November 13 and the budget will be adopted later in November.
It was very difficult to keep the tax hike down, Mr. Wilson said Monday.
Rising costs for health care and the ongoing streambank rehabilitation project continue to dog the budget, Mr. Wilson added.
Just as this year, health care is the single largest cost increase in the spending plan, according to Mr. Wilson. The cost of providing health care for its workers is rising by seven percent for 2018 after going up by 11 for this year.
“We’re trying to get a handle on it,” he added. Meetings on possible changes are being held with unions and retirees.
The final two segments of the streambank project are expected to be completed next year, but officials do not have the cost estimates. Mr. Wilson still expects the full funding from the federal and state agencies for the project.
In formulating the budget, Mr. Wilson said he had to reject several proposals from department heads for additional staff.
Some additions were incorporated in the spending plan including one in economic development for a “regulatory ombudsman” who would help businesses get permits and with other governmental regulations.
Economic development is very important in order for the county to be successful.
One area of improvement is in increased sales tax revenue.
Mr. Wilson budgeted $14.7 million for 2018 in anticipated sales tax revenue, about $500,000 more than this year.
Some money was taken out of the county’s reserve, its fund balance, in order to lower the tax levy hike.
Mr. Wilson said he did not want to take a lot out of the reserves because funding will be needed for the new jail and to complete the streambank project.