JOHNSTOWN - Fulton County today released a tentative $88.8 million 2013 county budget, which carries an 8.2 percent average property tax-rate increase across the county's municipalities.
The average tentative tax rate is $12.52 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The current average rate is $11.57 per $1,000.
The proposed tax levy - the amount of money raised in taxes - is $30.4 million, which is 9.4 percent over the 2012 levy of $27.7 million.
Changes in tax rates among the municipalities would range from a 51- cent-per-$1,000 increase in the town of Mayfield to a $1.34-per-$1,000 increase in Oppenheim.
Gloversville property owners would see their county tax rates increase by 8.5 percent, and city of Johnstown taxpayers would see an 8.2 percent increase.
The tax-levy increase would be above the county's state-imposed 2.5 percent cap on a tax-levy increase.
Here are some highlights of the tentative 2013 Fulton County budget:
Amount: $88.8 million, down from $94 million in 2012.
Estimated tax-levy increase: 9.4 percent.
County's state-mandated tax-levy cap: 2.5 percent.
Average county tax rate: $12.52 per $1,000 of assessed valuation; up 8.2 percent.
County supervisors already voted to override the cap for 2013, although county Budget Director Alice Kuntzsch said today the budget review continues.
"We're at the point where, hopefully, we can come down farther [on tax rates]," Kuntzsch said.
County supervisors applied $1.5 million from the fund balance to the budget.
Kuntzsch said there isn't much left to cut.
"Basically, we're at the point where departments have really scraped over the years," she said. "Discretionary funding is low."
Overall, appropriations are down 4.7 percent, from $94 million in the 2012 county budget.
Federal and state aid decreased 10.9 percent, or about $3 million, for next year.
Kuntzsch was scheduled to present the tentative budget to the Board of Supervisors today.
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The board was scheduled to accept the budget, which means supervisors will scrutinize it further until final budget adoption in late November or December.
Supervisors also will schedule a hearing or hearings on the spending plan.
Kuntzsch said only four positions were abolished during the budget process. They were vacant or due to be vacant because of retirement. They were two custodial workers, a personnel clerk and an account clerk.
In a budget message due to be released to the board today, Kuntzsch said, "The depth and span of the global recession has taken its toll on the local economy and recovery remains sluggish. Stagnated revenue streams and increased expenses continue to stress county budgets."
Kuntzsch said the two major state mandates affecting property taxes for next year will be Medicaid and state-retirement system costs, which will increase by $1.3 million and $2.2 million, respectively. For 2013, she said those two mandates represent 58 percent of the tax levy.
One-time revenue from the county's previous sale of the former Fulton County Residential Health Care Facility to a private agency left a $3.5 million revenue shortfall for 2013. In addition, Kuntzsch said $1.8 million of expenses related to the former county nursing home - such as retiree health benefits, workers' compensation costs and unemployment insurance - were inherited by the county's general fund.
Kuntzsch said the county share of health insurance premiums continues to have a "dramatic" effect on county budgets. Premiums budgeted at $7.9 million for next year increased by about $2 million since 2012.
For 2013, the county already applied $849,163 in tobacco- settlement money to help reduce the levy.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael F. Gendron said today the board may be able to cut the tax rate further.
"I'm always optimistic that once the tentative budget is approved by the board, that there may be something to find that the Finance Committee missed," he said.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at email@example.com.