County’s budget holds 1.5 percent tax increase

Legislators propose tax exemptions to urge home improvements

— Schenectady County’s tentative budget falls below the state’s property tax cap with a proposed tax levy increase of 1.5 percent.

County Manager Kathleen Rooney recently presented her Tentative 2012 County Operating Budget to Schenectady County Legislators, and it totals nearly $295 million. The tax hike for homes with an assessed value of $142,500 would equal an increase of $13.60. Rooney said over 80 percent of the county’s property and sales tax revenues are dedicated to mandates.

Over $6 million in cuts are included in the budget.

“Unfortunately, the continued shifts in mandated costs to county government now accounts for more than 100 percent of county property taxes,” Rooney said in a prepared statement. “Were it not for mandates, Schenectady County government would not have a property tax at all. We have, however, successfully maintained the property tax increase to 1.59 percent for seven years.”

Under the manager’s budget, 27 positions would be eliminated through attrition, contracts for services would be reduced, transportation efficiencies would be increased for Children with Special Needs programming and $101,000 in savings would be realized through service delivery changes at the Department of Senior and Long Term Care Services, among other cuts.

Over the past seven years, 200 positions have been cut from the county’s budget. The tentative budget reflects a 0.68 percent increase in appropriations compared to the 2011 budget.

Chairwoman of the Schenectady County Legislature Judith Dagostino echoed the need for mandate relief due to ever-increasing expenses.

“The legislature is reviewing the County Manager’s budget line by line in an effort to find additional savings for taxpayers,” Dagostino said in a prepared statement. “Within this challenging framework, this Legislature will make every reasonable effort to reduce the burden on taxpayers while protecting vital services.”

Dagostino noted mandated Medicaid costs account for $33.5 million in the tentative budget, which is an 85 percent increase since 2001. The county is also expecting to pay $12.1 million in retirement costs in 2012, which is a $1.4 million increase from 2011.

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