McCoy proposes $679 M budget for Albany County

The Enterprise — Sean Mulkerrin

“I’m pleased to present a budget that stays under the state tax cap for the fifth consecutive year,” Daniel McCoy says as he releases his proposed 2018 budget for Albany County. The proposed budget will not raise taxes.

ALBANY COUNTY — County Executive Daniel McCoy’s spending plan for 2018 is up $25 million from this year’s budget.

The proposed budget is estimated at $679,000,000. The adopted budget for 2017 is $653,674,035.  

McCoy said there will be no increase in taxes for homeowners, as he released his proposal on Tuesday afternoon.

McCoy, a Democrat, says “I’m pleased to present a budget that stays under the state tax-cap for the fifth consecutive year, despite the continued pressures of unfunded mandates,” and cuts in state aid to programs like foster care.

The budget has to be approved by the county legislature, which is dominated by Democrats.

“There is 80 percent of our budget we don’t control, and the majority of that is unfunded — some of it’s funded, but the majority of that 80 percent is unfunded,” McCoy said. Twenty percent of mandates are funded, according to the executive’s office.

On the $25 million budget increase, McCoy said, “We have the nursing home project and the Times Union Center project,” which is currently undergoing $19.6 million in upgrades.

“I take pride in the nursing home, it was a battle in the beginning of my administration. We worked out in a partnership with the legislature, and what we have at the end of the day is a $60 million addition going on at that nursing home,” he said. The county will be reimbursed 85 percent of the cost of the nursing-home addition from the state and federal governments.

Mark E. Grimm, a Republican representing Guilderland the county legislature, told The Enterprise he supports the “big-ticket” items like upgrading the Times Union Center.

“That’s going to pay back for us, that’s a pretty good investment,” he said. “They tell us that will add 20 to 25 years of life to the TU Center. We’re being smart in that regard,” he said.

The budget includes $250,000 in grant funding for the Albany County Land Bank, established in 2014. The land bank acquires derelict properties and sells them.

The biggest chunk of revenue is 268.6 million from sales tax, of which $107 million is distributed to municipalities based on population.

Albany County is expecting to receive $169 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 remaining $92.5 million will come from property taxes. Currently, the county taxes are $4.20 per $1000 of assessed value. The county is figuring on $72.7 million in federal aid and $69.3 million in state aid.

Among the largest appropriations in the budget are:

— Economic assistance and opportunity, including social services, medical assistance, and children and family services, $206,682,726;

— General government operations, $162,661,815;

— The distribution of sales tax to municipalities, $107,425,920;

— Public safety, including the sheriff’s office, correctional facility, and probation office, $87,547,861; and

— Health and mental health services, $41,126,965.

Asked by The Enterprise if there would be any savings from the shared-services plan, McCoy said, “Right now, we didn’t affect it into the 2018 budget for a variety of reasons, because we were under a short time-frame to get that completed. Also, it’s going to take time — the state, I don’t think put anything into the budget for 2018. This is going to be future savings for 2019, 2020, 2021, especially with the healthcare. That’s what I’m really pushing for next year,” but state law needs to be changed first for any savings to be seen with healthcare, he said.

“I take great pride and privilege in having the biggest general fund in recent history,” McCoy said, at the press conference. The county will have a proposed fund balance of about $60 million.

Grimm said, “To Dan McCoy’s credit, he’s worked at building the reserve fund, because there are years where you have difficult circumstances.”

“The key issues, I like, is no tax hike and the rate [state tax cap] is going to remain the same, that’s really critical … high local taxes are a top issue,” says Grimm.

Grimm says he will review the budget line by line. “I still think there’s savings to be found; that’s what I’m going to be doing for the next week or so,” he says.

One of the things Grimm would like to see is clearer outcomes, especially with local services. As an example, he says, “You’re spending money on reducing smoking, well I want to know, how many people were smoking when they started the program, and how many people are smoking now?”

“We’re meeting the needs of a lot of people, and we’ve engaged in some big-ticket items, I think a zero tax-rate hike is really on the mark. We, the Republicans, have been pushing for this hard, and I think, we’re having some influence,” he said.

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