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Saratoga leaders hope the worst is over

2011 sees county spending down savings, nursing home at forefront

Saratoga County Board of Supervisors chairman Thomas N. Wood, III addresses a meeting of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.

Saratoga County Board of Supervisors chairman Thomas N. Wood, III addresses a meeting of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Julie Cushine-Rigg.

— For the second year in a row, the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Southern Saratoga have joined forces in co-hosting the annual State of The County address. This year’s speech took place on Thursday, April 19, at the Gideon Putnam in Saratoga Springs, where County Board of Supervisors Chairman Thomas Wood delivered a stark but hopeful appraisal of the challenges facing the county.

“Saratoga County is the best county in the state of New York and quite possibly in the entire United States,” Wood said after he and chamber members heard some less than encouraging numbers about the county’s budget.

Of the many issues discussed, the Maplewood Manor nursing home’s operating costs to the county seemed to take center stage. But it wasn’t the only player.

2011 deals county a blow

County Administrator Spencer Hellwig recapped the 2011 budget, which was $294 million in January. Of that, $231 million was for general fund expenses and covered by state and federal revenues as well as taxes. The unappropriated fund balance at that time was $22.2 million.

Within a couple of months, though, the county’s net operating deficit had fallen to $5.2 million and the fund balance sat at $16.8 million due to unforeseen expenses, including those incurred at the county nursing home.

“We still do have, in spite of all this turmoil…the lowest property taxes in the state of New York of the 62 counties. In addition to the nursing home deficit, it was also projected a negative revenue bearings of $1.7 million in our 2011 state aid based on changes being implemented during the state budget cycle last year. That brought the projected fund balance number down to $11.7 million,” Hellwig said.

More bad news followed in the form of sales tax collections. They had been budgeted at $103 million, eight percent above the prior year total, but trended toward a “mere two percent increase” creating another “gaping hole” of $5.5 million that never materialized.

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