Chairman of the Albany County Legislature Andrew Joyce at the meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 12 (Jim Franco/Spotlight News)
ALBANY — The County Legislature, on Thursday, Nov. 5, approved a $733 million spending plan that increases spending but lowers taxes and gives all elected officials a raise, including themselves.
The legislature made some modifications to the plan initially proposed by County Executive Dan McCoy in October.
The bottom line, is that the new average tax rate will be $3.49 per $1,000 of equalized assessed value, a 1.8 percent decrease, about 0.5 percent less than McCoy’s proposed budget.
The legislature did spread out and trim raises proposed by McCoy for himself, Sheriff Craig Apple and Comptroller Susan Rizzo and gave themselves an pay increase.
McCoy had initially proposed bumping his salary from $141,320 to $163,900, Apple’s salary from $129,358 to $149,900 and Comptroller-elect Susan Rizzo’s salary from $125,816 to $145,900 the day she is slated to assume the office for the first time. The salary of District Attorney David Soares, the fourth official elected county wide outside of the judiciary, would remain at $202,800.
Instead, the legislature modified the increases to represent an 8 percent bump for McCoy and Apple in 2020 with a 2 percent increase in 2021, 2022 and 2023. It nixed any increase for Rizzo in 2020 but did approve a 2 percent raise in 2021, 2022 and 2023.
Under the modified budget, by 2023 McCoy’s salary will be $161,969 and Apple’s will be $148,258.
In a separate resolution, the body of lawmakers gave themselves a $1,000 raise, or about 4.2 percent, in 2020 with a 2 percent bump in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The base pay for a legislator is 23,546 and by 2023 it will jump to $26,049, a 10.6 percent increase.
“This budget puts our residents first. One of our main objectives when we received this budget was to find savings that we could use for programs or initiatives to address the needs of our constituents,” Chair of the Legislature Andrew Joyce said in a statement.
The majority of other county employees not represented by a union will see a 2 percent salary increase, which is in line with those represented by a bargaining unit. There are about 2,685 county employees.
The budget funds 74 new positions including 18 in the Sherriff’s Office, nine in the Public Defender’s Office, seven in the District Attorney’s Office, three in the Division of Alternate Public Defender’s Office and five in the residential health care facilities.
This is the second year of the statewide implementation of the Hurrell-Harring indigent legal defense reforms McCoy fought for at the state level. An additional $3.5 million will fund 30 new positions, including those in the Public Defender, Alternative Public Defender and 18-B Departments.
Also included in the budget are:
• $250,000 for the rehabilitation of young offenders and help them avoid jail time.
• More caseworkers in the Department of Mental Health
• $100,000 for Camoin Associates to create a regional economic development strategy.
• $25,000 to help municipalities throughout the county with the 2020 Census.
• $30,000 for a senior citizens employment summer program
• $250,000 for the Albany County Land Bank, which has enabled more than 445 properties to return to the tax rolls and totaling $26.1 million in assessed value of tax-foreclosed real property since being implemented in 2014.
•General fund reserves were not touched and have doubled to more than $60 million in 2020 from $30 million in 2011.
• Funding to strengthen the compliance and review process of Minority and Women Business Enterprises to promote equal economic opportunities in the county.
“We built on the momentum started by the Executive to implement additional programs and services that were all encompassing to address critical areas of need in our communities from our youth to our senior citizens,” said Wanda Willingham, chair of the Audit and Finance Committee.
About 80 percent of the budget is mandated with 60 percent being state or federal mandates for things like social services.
“This budget continues a legacy of fiscal responsibility and keeping taxes flat, all while expanding the services that make Albany County more affordable and a better place to live and raise a family,” said McCoy.