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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.

— At that point, Hellwig pointed out, “If there was ever a time for Saratoga County of being pushed to the brink, this was it. And the phrase that ‘No news is good news’ took on new meaning.”

By June it became clear that the county’s troubles were perceived as unprecedented and a hiring freeze was put into effect with a projected savings of nearly $2 million. Surplus funding of $2.4 million was identified from three capital projects and returned to the general fund.

Late summer brought news that federal Medicaid revenue for Maplewood Manor was being rebased at a higher rate.

“Although this rebasing was insufficient, to make a significant dent in the multi-million dollar operating losses that Maplewood has been experiencing for the past eight years, it did allow us to take advantage of an intergovernmental transfer program that provided a net increase of $5.9 million in unanticipated revenue for the nursing home,” said Hellwig.

The expense requests totaled $327 million and the corresponding revenues totaled $295 million, resulting in a $32 million shortfall, in part because of state mandates.

“Even with the current property tax levy of $50.7 million we’re still $10 million short in covering those mandates,” he added.

Approximately $16.5 million was cut from many places, including defunding vacant positions and making cuts to funding to all outside organizations. The chamber was one of those groups.

In addition, the county did not garner the support of the state Legislature to sponsor home rule legislation required to affect an increase in the sales tax rate. The county had hoped to increase that by 1 percent to help with some of the shortfalls. Amendments were instead made to the tentative, budget including an increase to the property tax rate to $2.23 per $1,000 of assessed value, an 8-cent increase.

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