Albany County budget down 1.8% for 2021, taxes steady

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy has proposed a $719.4 million budget for 2021. The proposal is down $13 million from this year’s budget.  

ALBANY COUNTY — Faced with a decline in consumption-tax revenue, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy has presented a spending plan for next year that is $13 million below this year’s county budget. 

The proposed $719.4 million budget stays under the state-set levy limit for the eighth year in a row — the levy is up about $2.1 million — while giving property owners a third-straight tax-rate decrease, from $3.49 per $1,000 of equalized value this year to $3.487 per $1,000 next year.

Democrat McCoy’s budget still has to be approved by the county legislature, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a nearly 3-to-1 margin; last year, 32 of 35 legislators voted to adopt the county executive’s budget. The county legislature’s Audit and Finance Committee gets first crack at McCoy’s budget, on Oct. 19, and, following a number of sessions, the budget gets public hearings on Oct. 27 and Nov. 24.

To present a balanced spending plan for 2021, McCoy’s budget relies on tapping the county’s $60 million rainy-day fund for $3 million, reallocating $5 million that would have otherwise been appropriated toward paying off county debt, and $5 million in salaries and benefits savings from 72 employees who each accepted a $15,000 early separation payout to either retire or leave the county employ.

Earlier this year, in response to the pandemic’s looming financial impact, McCoy said the county slowed down hiring. 

Even with less spending planned for next year, McCoy told The Enterprise, there will be no cuts in services for Albany County residents, and that his proposed budget for 2021 is not waiting on federal stimulus relief to fill any gaps.

“Proposing a slight cut in the county property tax rate is quite an accomplishment in the year of COVID-19. The last thing a struggling economy needs is a tax hike,” Republican County Legislator Mark Grimm of Guilderland said in a statement. “County Executive Dan McCoy’s 2021 proposed executive budget, which is more than $13 million lower than last year, demonstrates the importance of building a rainy-day fund during good years to help out in down ones. While there are bound to be differences revealed throughout upcoming comprehensive budget hearings, legislators must work together to ensure this sound fiscal approach is maintained.”

 

Revenues

In 2021, McCoy expects the county to take in about $272 million in sales-tax revenue, a drop of $18 million over this year. Of that, about $109 million, down about $8 million from this year, is to be distributed to municipalities based on population.

The county is also expecting a decrease in revenue from other local tax items, which include payments in lieu of taxes, known as PILOTs; income from the sale of tax-acquired properties; interest and penalties on delinquent taxes; the county’s portion of the hotel-motel tax; and revenue from the mortgage-recording fees — from almost $83 million this year to approximately $80 million in 2021.

The county expects to levy about $97.5 million in property taxes in 2021, up from $95.4 million this year.

About $96.6 million is expected from the state, up from $91 million this year, and $77.8 million from the federal government, an increase of $1.8 million from 2020. 

Albany County is expecting to receive about $43.2 million from department and miscellaneous income in 2021, which 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 expected department and miscellaneous income for next year is down nearly $13 million from the $55 million expected to be collected in 2020.

 

Appropriations

Among the largest appropriations in the budget are:

— Economic assistance and opportunity, including social services, medical assistance, and children and family services, $243.9 million;

— General government operations, $176.5 million;

— Public safety, including the sheriff’s office, county jail, and probation office, $90.9 million; 

— Health and mental-health services, $44.2 million; and

— Education, $32.7 million. ​

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