Press-Republican

December 4, 2013

Clinton County legislators seek budget input

By JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Clinton County legislators will hear from the public tonight on a 2014 budget that falls well within the tax-levy cap.

“Finalizing spending plans in this environment is never easy, but having said that, we think the 2014 county budget is a good one and meets our objectives and does not overburden the taxpayers,” County Administrator and Budget Officer Michael Zurlo told the Press-Republican.

The public hearing begins at 7 tonight in the Legislative Chambers on the second floor of the County Government Center.

CAP FORMULA

The 2014 proposed budget features an increase in the tax levy of just .08 percent, well below the allowable state tax cap.

The state cap is set at 1.66 percent, but it can be adjusted for growth in taxable property, tort settlements and awards; pension-contribution increases that exceed 2 percentage points of covered payroll; and a carryover of up to 1.5 percent of unused tax-levy growth to the following year.

Under that formula, the county’s cap for 2014 is 4.1 percent.

REVENUE

The county benefited from an outstanding year in sales-tax revenue, as figures are about $3.2 million ahead of projections with the holiday season, typically the busiest sales-tax time of year, still to come.

The county will also receive $322,500 in payments from the sale of its home-health-care license last year to a private firm. The payments will be repeated another two years after 2014.

HELP WITH MEDICAID

Another factor in helping legislators keep taxes down was a drop in Medicaid costs to the county due to a state cap and enactment of the federal Affordable Health-Care Act.

The act increases federal reimbursement rates to states for Medicaid for childless adults, and the states are obligated to pass a portion of that on to local counties, Zurlo explained.

That part of the act results in a reduction in the weekly share that the state charges the county for Medicaid.

Medicaid costs account for about 60 percent of the county’s tax levy, but that is down from about 70 percent.

FUND BALANCE

The county will also use $2 million from its fund balance to keep the tax levy down.

The fund balance will be left with about $11.2 million for 2014, which is within the state recommendation of 5 to 15 percent of the $157 million budget.

The overall composite tax rate for the county will be $6.07 per $1,000 of assessed property value. It was slated to go to $6.10, but legislators opted to use about $90,000 more from the tax-stabilization fund to keep the rate at $6.07, the same as 2013.

The fund was established by legislators in 2011 to offset tax increases for future budgets. 

The total assessed property value in the county increased by $35,626,229, or just 0.8 percent.

DEC. 11 ADOPTION

Legislators will be able to make adjustments to the budget until they vote on it at the Dec. 11 meeting, but Zurlo said he does not foresee any changes.

“It’s a good budget,” he said.

“And, additionally, it gives us the ability to meet our obligations in the future.”

Email Joe LoTemplio:jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com