McCoy proposes $711M budget for Albany County

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Property taxes will decrease slightly, Daniel McCoy said as he released his proposed 2019 budget for Albany County. This will be the sixth year in a row that taxes have not gone up.

ALBANY COUNTY — County Executive Daniel McCoy’s $711 million spending plan for 2019 is up about $21 million from this year’s budget.

Property taxes will decrease slightly, McCoy said in presenting his budget on Wednesday morning, noting that it’s the sixth year in a row that taxes have not been raised.

Albany County residents currently pay $3.72 per $1,000 of assessed value for county taxes; the proposed 2019 rate is $3.61 per $1,000, according to the Albany County Legislature.

McCoy’s proposed budget is estimated at $711,115,124. The adjusted budget for 2018 is $689,781,304; when it was announced, in October 2017, the proposed budget for 2018 was $679 million.

The budget still has to be approved by the county legislature, where Democrats outnumber Republicans, 29 to 10; last year, 38 legislators voted to adopt the county executive’s budget.

Eighty percent of the county’s budget, McCoy said, is mandated by the state or federal government or by the county’s charter and local laws; of that, 60 percent is unfunded. The “big nine” mandates are: Medicaid, public assistance, child welfare, special education and pre-kindergarten, indigent defense, probation, early intervention, retirement, and youth detention.

McCoy said that Albany County is among lowest-taxed counties in the state.

The Enterprise asked McCoy, given the county’s over-reliance on sales-tax revenue, which is why the county is among lowest-taxed counties in the state, what happens when the economy takes an inevitable downturn; what happens to taxpayers’ wallets?

“The court decision that recently came down … will offset everything else,” McCoy responded, referring to the Supreme Court decision, South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc., which says internet retailers can be required to collect sales taxes in states where they have no physical presence. New York State had already collected sales tax on some internet sales, prior to the decision.

McCoy said of the top 20 revenue streams for the county, online sales have gone from 15th to 9th.

For the third year in a row, according to the state comptroller’s office, McCoy said, Albany County is not under any fiscal stress.

The county’s fund balance, or rainy-day account, has doubled, to $60 million, since he first took office in 2012, McCoy said, adding, “I live like we don’t have it.”

Revenues

McCoy’s budget calls for $279 million from sales tax, of which nearly $112 million is distributed to municipalities based on population.

Albany County is expecting to receive about $172 million from department and miscellaneous income. This includes fees charged by the county clerk, public-health fees, civic-center revenues, fees charged to other governments for boarding prisoners at the county jail, and income collected by the county nursing home for residential care.

The county is expecting about $75 million in federal aid and about $90 million from the state. The remaining $94 million will come from property taxes.

Expenditures

Among the largest appropriations in the budget are:

— Economic assistance and opportunity, including social services, medical assistance, and children and family services, $242.7 million;

— General government operations, $171.6 million;

— The distribution of sales tax to municipalities, $112 million;

— Public safety, including the sheriff’s office, county jail, and probation office, $92.9 million; and

— Health and mental-health services, $42.5 million.

Part of the budget’s increase is due to two new programs. Eight million dollars are budgeted for the continued implementation of state legislation that raised the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old; previously, New York was one of just two states that automatically prosecuted 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. And $1.75 million for Indigent Legal Services. Both are fully reimbursed by the state.

Service to the physically handicapped increased by about $3.8 million from last year. Three functions of the sheriff’s office: the office itself, probation, and the county’s jail, collectively, increased by about $4 million from the 2018 adjusted budget. Youth family service for children went up about $6 million.

McCoy also attributed the budget increase to rising health care and insurance costs. “Nothing goes down,” he said, of the costs.

New York is the only state in the nation that shifts Medicaid costs onto its counties, according to a release from the Albany County Legislature; about 71 percent of the proposed $94 million property-tax levy is allocated already for Medicaid costs.