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Genesee County proposes budget with 2 percent levy increase to cover rising costs



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matt_headshot.jpgA new $70 million county jail underway has certainly added to Genesee County’s spending slate for 2023 and beyond, however, there are other reasons for a proposed 2% increase in tax levies, said County Executive Matt Landers.

An “all funds” budget of $162,567,180 represents an increase of nearly $3.6 million over the current budget, with an operating budget of $124,247,459 – an increase of $4.88 million more than the current 2022 budget, Landers said.

The prison’s new debt service — a tab of nearly $4 million a year for the next 30 years — includes construction, labor and materials for the new facility on Route 5 in the city ​​of Batavia, and eight new hires needed at the future site.

The Batavian asked Landers about previous statements made by county leadership about how the new jail would not impact ratepayers.
The proposed 2% increase in tax levies includes other rising costs, Landers said.

“Serving the new jail’s debt shouldn’t result in an increase in county property taxes, which it isn’t,” he said. “The percentage increase in budget levies is due to a number of factors, including increases in NYS retirement costs, salary increases, inflationary increases on a variety of products used by the Department of Highways of the county and some operational increases at the jail due to the hiring of new positions. .”

These positions include six correctional officers and a new deputy superintendent of the prison, two new positions in the sheriff’s office aimed at “improving public safety” and a new public health education coordinator position (funded by increased state funding).

What is your calculation for these new positions for the prison, including salary and benefits?
Landers provided figures for the 2023 budget year, which total $286,047. However, that covers three correctional officers starting July 1, and the remaining three officers and an assistant prison superintendent to start October 1, meaning pay and benefits for three to six months of 2023.

A public hearing was set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the legislative chambers of the Old Courthouse between Main and Ellicott Streets, Batavia. Typical of such hearings, this will include a budget presentation, Landers said, “but we welcome public comment.”

“Comments provided by the public will absolutely be taken into consideration before the Legislature passes the final budget later this month,” he said.

A 2% increase in tax levies and assessment increases for most properties will result in a decrease in actual property tax – from $9.18 to $8.44 per $1,000 of assessed value. If your property has increased, it may not translate to an overall decrease in property tax. For example, a $100,000 house at $9.18 = $918, while a house now valued at $120,000 at $8.44 = $1,012.80.

The county was not directly responsible for the high assessments, as each municipality conducted its own assessment process, and Landers points to the fact that county taxes will go down. But it’s worth noting the increase in assessments for many people and how that will affect your future county tax bill.

The Batavian asked if it was probably the trend going forward — increase in tax levies to pay off the prison’s long-term debt. While he can’t comment with certainty on future budgets, Landers is aware of the county’s ties to “many state mandates over which we have little control.”

“And when there are changes made by the state, we have to react accordingly,” he said. “The 2021 budget kept the levy at a stable level and the 2022 budget increases the levy by 2%. The county faces inflationary cost pressures like all other organizations, and when inflation exceeds 8%, it is difficult to keep our expenses steady.

“The county hopes to generate revenue from the 2024 budget through inmate boarding, which will help offset the costs of running the county jail.”

At a recent county legislature meeting, supervisors in Pembroke and Bergen called on lawmakers for their municipalities to be able to use more revenue – which they say has shrunk due to an agreement 40-year sales tax split between county and city.

Why should they accept the fact that they see less revenue now that the county receives more? Genesee County shares $10 million annually with cities and towns for the remaining term of this agreement, Landers said.

“The county has a number of countywide challenges that will require this increase as we move forward in developing solutions,” he said. “In addition to funding a $70 million jail, the county is working on a countywide broadband solution to ensure every home is connected; the county is working on phase 3 of the county water supply system, which costs $150 million; and we are actively working to help implement some of the solutions identified in the study (Municipal Resources Inc.).

“Having said that, the county is absolutely hearing the voices of our city and town leaders, and I hope we can find creative ways to have meaningful positive impacts on their municipal budgets.”

A positive step, he said, was being able to eliminate election chargebacks and cut workers’ compensation costs by 60% in the 2023 budget.

Other budget challenges include increases of more than $700,000 for state pension costs; state mandates to fund Medicaid, probation, the new prison, public defender’s office, designated attorneys, social service programs, mental health, early intervention, and preschool services, he said. he declares.

With everything on offer, is everything in need? Is there anything the county can delay at this time?
Landers emphasized that “we do NOT incur expenses until we need to.”

In fact, the county’s infrastructure has been neglected over the years, he said, and “we’ve deferred maintenance to the point that we end up paying more in the long run.”

“The perfect example is the facade of the old Sheriff’s Administration building. We had an estimate to repair the facade of the building, where large rocks were literally falling off the facade, five years ago for about 500,000 $,” Landers said. “We’ve postponed that maintenance and are now making those needed repairs for over a million dollars.”

This 2023 budget includes a continued commitment for a $1 million funding increase for roads and bridges, Landers said in his budget message. Deferred maintenance on these structures has reached crisis point, “and the cracks are visible,” as evidenced by recent bridge closures, he said.

The proposed budget includes $2 million in unrestricted—undesignated—fund balances, and in addition to the new jail, an ongoing water project is clearly on the county’s list of priorities.

“The county is embarking on two of the largest capital infrastructure projects in its history,” he said of the $70 million jail and $150 million water system project. of dollars. “These two projects will weigh heavily on decisions made by the superintendent’s office and the county legislature for the foreseeable future, and this is evident in the county’s recommended budget for 2023.”

After Wednesday’s hearing, the budget will go to the Legislative Assembly for consideration and possible vote later this month. Landers is happy the financial plan is under the allowed tax cap, he is also aware of its ramifications.

“I am not blind to the significant impact the proposed tax levy has on the citizens and businesses of Genesee County,” he said. “My term as county executive is just beginning, and I am committed to working with local governments, community non-profit organizations, county businesses and local citizens on ways to spend these precious resources. as efficiently as possible.”

Click to read the full budget message