County weighs tax-cap option

JOHNSTOWN – Fulton County government is starting its 2014 budget process and thinking about the possible need to override the state-mandated property-tax cap.

The Board of Supervisors’ Finance Committee last week scheduled a public hearing to adopt a law that would authorize the override. The county has not yet scheduled the hearing date.

Passing the law would give the county the option of overriding the cap. The county approved the tax-cap override option the past two years. The county overrode the tax-levy cap by 1.7 percent in 2012 but stayed under the cap in this year’s budget.

The state imposes a 2 percent cap on tax-levy increases for municipalities, although the actual percentage varies by municipality.

County Administrative Officer Jon Stead recommended county supervisors approve the tax-cap override option for the third consecutive year, with the goal of staying under the cap when adopting the budget.

The proposed resolution approved by the committee Thursday indicates that as 2014 budget deliberations approach, “it is apparent that minimal mandate relief has accompanied” the cap, as was “promised” by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators. Without relief, the resolution stated, the potential tax increase could exceed the state-mandated cap.

Stead said he and county Budget Director Alice Kuntzsch next month will discuss with supervisors various potential effects on the proposed 2014 budget, including workers’ compensation costs.

“That compresses how the cap works for the county,” he said.

The county committee also approved the county’s budget review schedule as set by Kuntzsch. The schedule covers 2014-16.

“We feel it’s been pretty effective, a three-year approach,” Stead said.

Even though oversight committees closely scrutinize the 2014 budget for adoption, he said the county likes to “forecast” budgetary figures for the second and third years.

“It’s basically the same pattern we’ve used the last five or six years,” Stead said.

Kuntzsch will distribute budget worksheets and request forms to county department heads and outside agencies June 3.

The county’s 2014 budget review schedule contains these significant dates: Aug. 20 to 28 – oversight committees review budgets; Nov. 12 – Kuntzsch files tentative budget with the Board of Supervisors; and Nov. 26 through Dec. 2 – adoption of the budget.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at