Thursday, November 10, 2011A Budget that complies with the Property Tax Cap Law, continues services, but requires policy decisions from the Legislature; Demands State Government responsibility for State mandates; Outlines need for economic recovery and growth.
(Monticello, NY - 4:45 PM) – County Manager David Fanslau has filed the 2012 Tentative Sullivan County Budget with the Clerk of the County Legislature, in compliance with the County Administrative Code and New York State Law. Fanslau issued the following statement: “This 2012 Tentative Sullivan County Budget complies with the New York State Property Tax Cap Law, while continuing services at the current levels, keeping our workforce intact and providing the services that our citizenry deserves and expects.
Sullivan County’s budget is predominantly driven by the unfunded mandates imposed by the New York State Government – mandates that support some of the most expensive social services in America. Without substantive mandate reform and relief, coupled with substantive reform and repeal of the property tax exemption statutes – the programs and services that are provided by the County Government are unsustainable. The County Legislature will have to take specific actions to address the financial feasibility of remaining in business models that require supplements from the property taxpayers, particularly those programs that are dictated by the New York State Government. Moreover, more than ninety-three percent (93%) of Sullivan County’s property tax levy is consumed to pay the bills for the services that the State Government requires to be provided on the State’s behalf, and yet the State fails to fund their own programs. Therefore, only seven percent (7%) of the County’s property tax levy is available for the discretionary spending that includes Public Works and Public Safety.
The 2012 Tentative County Budget appropriates a total of $193,845,603, an increase of $2,869,594from the 2011 adopted budget. I would note that this increase in spending is directly connected to the uncontrolled growing bills from the State to Sullivan County for the State’s programs, as opposed to increased spending for local priorities, such as public works and public safety. This appropriation was also necessary to address increases associated with the various collective bargaining agreements. I have also provided for salary increases and longevity payments as part of the 2012 budget in compliance with various collective bargaining agreements.
This is neither a time to override the property tax cap law, nor a time to layoff a large number of our employees. However, it is the time to hold Governor Cuomo to his often repeated promise that relief from State mandates will follow the enactment of the property tax cap law. The property tax cap law was enacted last June, and counties are waiting for action by the Governor and the State Legislature on the promised substantive relief from their mandates. This budget is developed, in part, based upon the Governor’s commitment that New York State will provide the needed, significant, and substantive relief from State mandates. We must also call upon Sullivan County’s representatives in the New York State Senate and the New York General Assembly, and request that their top priority in the upcoming State legislative session must be for New York State to join forty-eight other States, and to takeover the full costs of Medicaid, and to take the Medicaid expenses off of the backs of the property taxpayers of Sullivan County. This single move will realize a cost avoidance of more than $21 million in 2012, and the single move that would stabilize and reduce Sullivan County’s property tax levy for years to come.
There is also a prudent policy need to comprehensively examine any possibility to enhance the County’s revenues, outside of the property tax levy, as cutting expenses will require the reduction or elimination of programs and services. Therefore, I would recommend that the Legislature charge the Management and Budget Committee, together with the County Manager, Budget Office, and County Treasurer to examine possible revenue enhancements that may be employed in 2012, with an initial report to the Legislature by the end of the first quarter of 2012.
The required Tax Exempt Impact Report is included as a part of this 2012 tentative budget document. Sullivan County has about $10.17 billion of equalized value real property assessments. However, more than $1.995 billion is exempt from real property taxation. If all non-governmental properties were subject to the real property tax, there would be an additional $7.386 million realized at the proposed 2012 County tax rate. Therefore, the County Legislature should demand that the New York State Legislature seriously undertake the issue of tax exempt reform. Furthermore, if all non-governmental tax exempt real property were presently subject to real property taxation there would either be a net reduction of the property tax by 14.8 percent (14.8%), or there would be no appropriation of Fund Balance or a greatly reduced appropriation of Fund Balance. At the very least there should be an ability authorized by New York State to realize revenues from the impacts of providing County government services associated with improvements on tax exempt properties, so that the eighty percent (80%) of the balance of taxable real property owners do not have to shoulder the burden of one hundred percent (100%) of the property tax levy.
This 2012 Tentative Sullivan County Budget places our residents and taxpayers first, by complying with the New York State Property Tax Cap Law, and not reducing services. However, to accomplish these necessary goals, I have recommended that a certain level of the County’s undesignated and unreserved Fund Balance be appropriated to fund a gap that would have otherwise existed between revenues and expenses. Without relief and reform of State mandates, the Legislature must make certain decisions no later than the first quarter of 2012. A fundamental reality is that Sullivan County will have to ultimately choose to reduce or eliminate services, or override the property tax cap law, IF Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature fails to follow through with the promised mandate relief.
The formal reorganization of the Sullivan County Economic Development Corporation should be the County’s primary conduit to the business community, retaining, recruiting, and expanding job opportunities for Sullivan County residents. The Planning Commissioner has been directed to Sheppard the EDC, and as a result the County has submitted more than $52 million in grant application through the Governor’s Regional Economic Development Council. This $52 million, if awarded, will have a total project cost of more than $707 million, with $641 million in leveraged sources. Most importantly, the award of this $52 million request would realize the creation of 2,068 jobs in Sullivan County. The accomplishments of these efforts reflect upon the prudent decision last year to relocate the Center for Workforce Development within the Division of Planning and Environmental Management.
For more information contact David Fanslau at 845-807-0450