Steuben County Proposed Budget Plans

November 13, 2015
BATH – Statement from Steuben County Manager Jack Wheeler, on the Proposed 2016 Budget:

The proposed 2016 Steuben County budget looks to maintain local services while county taxpayers continue to pay an out-sized portion of state costs, according to county Manager/Budget Officer Jack Wheeler. The proposed budget is pegged at $175 million, down $1.2 million compared to current spending of $176.2 million. But the proposed tax levy – what property owners pay in taxes – is up slightly, from $49.5 million this year to $50 million in 2016 with the increase driven by state mandates, Wheeler said. “More than 93 percent of the tax levy pays for programs the state imposes on us, and makes us pay for,” Wheeler said. “And we have no choice in the programs.” The state‟s hard cap on local Medicaid costs kept Steuben share at $19 million. “This figure still represent 39% of the tax levy. Imagine what we could do with that amount available for our local use,” Wheeler said. Local increases in Steuben include: * Public Works Department: Up $342,000. * Sheriff‟s Department: Up $434,000. * District Attorney: Up $105,000. * Public Defense: Up $130,000. * Board of Elections: Up $72,000. Local cuts include: * Landfill operating costs cut $214,00 due to loss of landfill revenues. Local revenue increases include: *Sales tax revenues expected to increase to $27.8 million, a 1 percent increase compared to the $27.7 million expected in 2015 New public defense funding and grants totaling $147,000. Anticipated increase in county Jail revenues due to an increase in housing federal inmates.

Steuben County proposed 2016 budget, page 2. Wheeler said the average full value tax rate is expected to drop 12 cents from the current average tax rate of $8.59. Actual property tax rates depend on equalization values, which vary across the county‟s 34 towns, 14 villages and two cities. Ultimately, significant property tax decreases in Steuben depend on the state‟s willingness to pay its own bills, Wheeler said. Wheeler said a recent Pew report indicated property tax payers in New York account for 15 percent of state revenues, compared to an average of 2 percent used by every other state in the nation. “The state‟s hard cap on Medicaid is helpful,” Wheeler said. “And we have kept the budget under the state‟s mandated property tax cap and with the submission of the Government Efficiency Plan property owners will get the state rebate of $6. That‟s the equivalent of a „Happy Meal.‟”

A public hearing on the proposed 2016 Steuben County Budget is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 23, and will be followed by a vote on the budget by the county Legislature.