Fulton County 2020 budget discussions

JOHNSTOWN — More intense 2020 Fulton County budget discussions are coming up, as lawmakers decide whether to legally bypass the state’s tax levy cap for the county next year.

According to county Treasurer Terry Blodgett, a tax cap figure for Fulton County from the state for 2020 isn’t even known yet.

“We don’t have it yet,” he said Wednesday. “It should be shortly.”

Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead agreed that usually supervisors take action on a tax cap override — if needed — after at least the first budget review session.

“It would be a little early for that,” Stead said.

The state compiles tax levy cap figures for all the taxing jurisdictions in New York state — a process that has continued the last several years. The state started with a 2 percent cap, but over the years due to various factors, caps can swing from much higher than that figure to lower than 2 percent. Municipal bodies such as the Fulton County Board of Supervisors can vote to legally bypass the state’s tax cap.

Blodgett commented that the county is in the “beginning stages” of budget discussions, but officials have been gathering potential 2020 budget figures for some time.

For example, the Board of Supervisors’ Capital Projects Committee in early September finalized a proposed $3.8 million county capital plan for 2020, after it had lopped about $2 million off the package since July.

More intense scrutiny of the 2020 county budget is coming up in October and November, leading to final budget adoption.

A Fulton County “budget review” meeting of the board’s Finance Committee will be conducted at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 3 at the County Office Building. The purpose of the meeting will be to review the proposed 2020 tentative budget, according to Stead.

Fulton County’s budget process technically began June 5 with the office of County Budget Director Alice Kuntzsch providing county departments with budget guidelines. County departments submitted proposed figures to the county Personnel Department for certain payroll line items. By June, departments submitted proposed budget agenda items to their Board of Supervisors oversight committees for capital project approval.

From mid-July to mid-August, the budget office compiled, reviewed and made recommendations on a requested county budget. Board of Supervisors’ oversight committees in August reviewed and approved final department budget requests.

Stead said that before a tax cap decision is made, the county has to look at how much it has in reserves. He said Kuntzsch also takes a look at what new positions are proposed in the budget.

“In the next two to three weeks, we’ll really have a feel on whether we need to [override the cap] or not,” Stead said.

Kuntzsch is due to file her tentative 2020 county budget with the Board of Supervisors on Nov. 12. A public hearing on the tentative budget is slated for Nov. 25, with supervisors eventually adopting next year’s budget by about Nov. 29.

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Nov. 28, 2018 adopted a $93.3 million 2019 county budget carrying an average zero percent tax increase. The state imposed a 2 percent tax cap for 2019, but the board’s budget ended up being under the cap by about $400,000.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Josh Bovee

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