The County Board of Supervisors managed to keep 2013 budget increases under the State mandated 2% tax cap, but the move resulted in the elimination of over 30 County employee jobs and digs further into the fund balance.
At last Tuesday’s (11/20/12) meeting, the Board accepted the 2013 Tentative budget that results in a County Property Tax rate of $7.76, a 2.9% increase compared to 2012.
With a Property Tax Levy of $36,093,502 it is a 3.24% increase, but still under the Property Tax Cap by a slim $196,044.
“This was a particularly difficult budget process. There is not any good news in it for anybody,” said County Administrator Jim Marquette.
All County Departments were asked to cut and, even with the job eliminations, the County had to dig into their fund balance to the tune of $4.7 million dollars to remain under the 2% tax cap.
The hardest hit County Department was Mental Health where 19 employees were notified after the meeting that their jobs were being eliminated. Some employees with a decade or more of service lost their jobs. Some Committee Chairmen began receiving calls from constituents affected by the layoffs relaying personal stories of hardships the job cuts would cause.
In the Public Health Department, the Migrant Health Program was eliminated resulting in the loss of two jobs. “We simply cannot afford these things. We have to get tougher,” said Health & Medical Chair, Wolcott Supervisor Kim Park. “We didn’t have a choice. What would the tax rate be if we didn’t do something about it? (the deficit),” added Park.
One of the reasons for the job cuts and belt tightening came in a $1.5 million cut in state and federal revenues. There was an unexpected increase in community college tuition reimbursements of half a million dollars this year and that is expected to continue in the 2013 budget year.
The Wayne County Nursing Home is still being subsidized for close to $2 million dollars. At a recent committee meeting it was discussed that the County either find a broker to find a buyer, or eventually seek an RFP (Request for Proposals). “We can’t just stick a ‘for sale’ sign in the front yard, but we have to get going now,” admitted Park.
The top 10 costs to Wayne County taxpayers were State mandates, including: Medicaid $14,380,896; Pensions, net $6,743,659; Community College Tuition $3,500,000; Child Welfare Protection and Prevention $3,180,000; Public Assistance/Safety Net $3,060,000; Special Education Pre-K $2,945,924 Probation $1,852,806; Indigent Defense $1,737,881; Early Intervention $577,623 and Youth Detention $ 196,350.
Marquette said the County had worked hard to keep the tax levy stagnant for the past four years (2009-2012). Under his and the current Board of Supervisors’ watch, the tax rate per $1000 assessed value has declined from a high of $9.54 per $1000 to a low last year of $7.54.
County revenues come mainly from the state, making up $39,601806 under the tentative budget with the next largest share falling on property taxes with $36, 093,502, or 21.11%. County sales taxes contribute $27,250,000, or 15.94%.
In some areas County Departments are adding part-time employees that do not get the retirement and benefits of full time employees.
In a slide presentation to the Board, Marquette pointed out that Medicaid is the most costly county mandate. In New York, 26.66% of residents are enrolled in Medicaid with the State spending $7,927 per enrollee.