Yates budget public hearing Nov. 19
County’s proposed 2021 reductions ‘wise and conservative’ in light of state funding cuts, says Treasurer
PENN YAN — Yates County Treasurer and Administrator Nonie Flynn presented the proposed 2021 budget to the legislature last month, reviewing some of the bigger changes in the final workshop session. After noting a few items for revision, the legislators voted to accept the proposed budget and scheduled the required public hearing for 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19. The full 113-page budget can be viewed at www.yatescounty.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/155 .
Portions of Flynn’s budget summary
The proposed 2021 budget meets the budget guideline issued by the Yates County Legislature to stay within the property tax cap increase allowable amount of $488,214 or 2.96%. The result is a property tax levy of $16,519,672, a zero increase over the 2020 levy. Because of the zero increase in the tax levy and a 0.80% increase in the value of taxable property in the County, the proposed 2021 property tax rate will decrease to $5.89 per thousand. Note that the taxable valuation may change due to corrections prior to the budget adoption. The assessed values and rates are: (table 1)
The increase in the general County levy is $488,214 less than the amount allowed by the New York State property tax cap and is therefore compliant.
Overall, the proposed revenues for 2021 are budgeted to be 9.79% less than those adopted in 2020. A summary of the revenues: (Table 4)
Non-property Taxes account for 52.43% of total revenues. Sales tax revenue is budgeted flat at $12.7 million and occupancy tax revenue is also budgeted flat at $600,000 based on the uncertainty of the tourism economy with the COVID-19 pandemic. The revenue from E911 is budgeted slightly less than in 2020 to reflect the historical actuals.
State Aid is 23.65% of total revenues. Of the over $2.1 million of the projected reduction in NYS aid, $1.3 million can be attributed to the uncertainty of the 20% NYS aid withholding. This can be found in multiple areas – District Attorney wage recovery, education of handicapped children, Probation, Public Health (including rabies and early intervention), Community Services, Veterans, Youth, Social Services (including daycare, child care, juvenile delinquent care, safety net, and emergency aid for adults) and CHIPS funding. There is also a reduction in aid that was included in the 2020 budget for reimbursements for household hazardous waste day, debt service for the courthouse, the water infrastructure study, the Middlesex boat launch, the 2020 census, PSAP grant funding, and DOT aid toward the Williams Street bridge and East Sherman Hollow Road bridge projects.
Federal Aid is 11.78% of total revenues. The decreases can be found in the Social Services Department for reductions in aid for social services administration fees, child care, and flexible fund revenue for family services (FFFS), along with the loss of DOT revenue for the 2020 Williams Street and East Sherman Hollow bridges.
Overall, the proposed expenditures for 2021 are budgeted at 7.22% less than those adopted in 2020. A breakdown of expenditures: (Table 5)
The most significant reduction in expenditures is found Debt Services. 2020 was the last year of debt payment on the county office building and the courthouse. This is a reduction to the 2021 budget of over $1.3 million.
The proposed 2021 budget includes a 2.0% salary increase as negotiated by the Council 82 Emergency Communications and CSEA Bargaining Agreements, a 2.5% increase as negotiated by Council 82 Corrections and Other Employees Unit, a 3.0% increase as negotiated by Council 82 Deputy Sheriffs and a 2.0% increase for non-union employees. Average pension rates charged by the NYS Retirement System have increased from 16.5% in 2020 to 19.3% for 2021. This equates to an increase of $219,956 over the 2020 budgeted amount. The health insurance rate for premiums is increasing 3%. The total budgeted for the County’s share is $2.2 million. The Health Reimbursement Account for all employees has been funded at $1,300 for a single policy and $2,600 for all other policies totaling $339,300; this includes a small reduction for employees that reached the $6,000 cap at the beginning of 2020. The County workforce for 2021 comprises 230 full-time employees and 38 part-time employees. This is a reduction from 2020 due to temporary full-time positions funded in 2020 in the Real Property Department and in Dispatch pending anticipated retirements.
New York State Mandates
The State of New York directs Yates County to fund several programs, including Medicaid, Retirement, Community College, Social Services Programs, Education of Handicapped Children, Probation, Indigent Defense, Workers’ Compensation, and Early Intervention. Together these mandated net expenses account for 63.64% of the tax levy, totaling $10,513,337. The County’s contribution to the State’s Medicaid program continues to be the County’s largest single expense and represents 37.8% of all of the mandates and 24.0% of the tax levy.
Use of Fund Balance
Because the reimbursement rate from New York State is unpredictable, fund balance must be available for the cash flow for the pension payment, criminal justice reform, audit, and payroll to maintain fiscal stability. Adequate reserves avoid the cost of borrowing for operating expenses. As shown in the most recent fiscal stress score, the ratio of fund balance to expenditures is adequate and did not generate demerit points in the NYS Office of State Comptroller scoring.
Budget Stabilization Assigned Fund
In 2017, the Legislature established an assignment of $500,000 toward future budget stabilization, added an additional $500,000 in 2018, and an additional $200,000 in 2019. The intent was to maintain stable property tax rates, even though many financial requirements are imposed by state or federal law. The following table shows the identified expenditures over which the County has no control, the target amount of these expenditures (established based on 3, 5, and 10 year averages), the amount budgeted for 2021, and the difference from the target. (budget Table 6)
As illustrated above, the 2021 budgeted amount total falls short of the targeted amount total. In other words, for 2021 the above expenditures were underfunded based on averages. If 2020 results in a surplus of over the anticipated $310,169 that is being appropriated to offset the 2021 budget, it would be prudent to continue to add to this assigned balance. As shown in the Five Year Forecast in Appendix G, there are few anticipated revenue increases for 2022 through 2025 to temper the increases for wages, health insurance premiums, or capital projects. It may be necessary to use these budget stabilization reserve funds in the next five years to keep the property tax rate stable.
Many thanks are due to the County Department Heads and their staffs for their professional, responsible, and transparent approach in preparing this proposed budget. Their hard work in sharing fiscal responsibility while providing essential services to the people of Yates County is greatly appreciated.