Schenectady County Legislature Passes 2021 Operating and Capital Budgets

Schenectady County Seal

The Schenectady County Legislature unanimously passed its 2021 Operating Budget and 2021-2026 Capital Improvement Budget.

Even with projected sales tax and other revenue reductions, and a potential reduction in state and federal aid, the County kept the property tax levy increase, the first in several years, under the tax cap. There was no increase in the levy in 2017, 2019 and 2020 and a 1 percent reduction in 2018.

Despite the challenges and fiscal uncertainty facing the County due to COVID-19, Schenectady County remains committed to maintaining vital services and facilitating shared services that save local municipalities money while maintaining the current distribution of sales tax revenue to the County’s towns for 2021.

“No matter what challenges we face, our budget priorities are always the same – to deliver the services our families depend on while cutting costs and minimizing the impact on taxpayers,” said Anthony Jasenski, Chair of the Schenectady County Legislature. “While COVID-19 affected our bottom line, our responsible fiscal management has allowed us to weather the storm without sacrificing services or laying off employees.”

Budget Highlights

Challenges

State and federal mandates, including Medicaid, Temporary Assistance (TANF and SafetyNet), Child Welfare, Community College chargebacks, Early Intervention, Preschool Education, Indigent Defense, Probation, Youth Detention, Foster Care and Public Health, consume a majority of the County’s property tax levy. The County’s Medicaid appropriation alone consumes approximately $31.9 million, or 44 percent of the 2021 property tax levy.

The County’s pension obligation for the New York State Employee Retirement System will increase 11 percent in 2021, resulting in an additional $1.1. million in costs over 2020.

The 2021 Operating Budget projects revenue reductions compared to the 2020 budget.

Net Sales Tax Receipts: (-$6,529,000)

Casino Revenue: (-$1,025,000)

Interest and Earnings: (-$661,450)

Occupancy Tax: (-$299,129)

Taxes

Despite these challenges, the 2021 Operating Budget includes a property tax levy ($71,804,510) that is less than 1 percent more than the 2016 tax levy. The County Legislature kept the levy flat (0 percent increase) in 2017, 2019 and 2020, and decreased it by one percent in 2018. This has saved taxpayers $21.4 million over the same time period, had the levy been increased by the maximum allowed under the State Property Tax Cap.

Cost Savings

Schenectady County continues generating cost-savings from its innovative approach to employee health insurance and prescription drug coverage, saving the County millions of dollars a year. In 2020 the County is on course to pay less for these employee benefits than it did in 2003.

The purchase of two buildings previously leased by the County, 388 Broadway and 797 Broadway in Schenectady, will result in approximately $1.7 million in savings in 2021, with additional savings in 2022 and beyond.

The Schenectady County Intermunicipal Solar Energy Consortium produces 27MW of solar energy, saving the County and other local municipalities over $750,000 per year.

Several additional cost-saving initiatives in the budget will help offset projected revenue losses, including a retirement incentive, and eliminating a significant number of vacant positions.

“Schenectady County is a great example of how government can cut costs and consolidate services to save taxpayers money,” said County Legislator Philip Fields, Chair of the Ways and Means Committee. “The flexibility of our workforce and leadership during the pandemic has allowed the County to deploy assets where and when they are needed, while keeping costs down and delivering the services our residents need and deserve.”

Despite the challenging fiscal times, the 2021 budgets continue to fund important community services, including the County Library System, Street Crimes Unit and Drug Task Force, the Countywide Radio Interoperability project, Public Health Services’ pandemic response and the operation of the County’s Glendale Home, which has had zero residents diagnosed with COVID-19 to-date.

Schenectady County has committed $18 million to the Countywide Radio Interoperability project to modernize the County’s public safety network communication equipment, including a tower system, base units at firehouses and stations, portable and vehicle radios for police and fire units.

 


 

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