County budget seeks no tax hike

JOHNSTOWN – Fulton County’s tentative $88 million budget for 2014 seeks no increase in the tax levy.

The Board of Supervisors’ Budget Review Committee on Thursday approved a tentative county budget to be presented to the full Board of Supervisors next month.

Thanks in part to a hefty use of fund balance, a scaled-back capital plan, belt-tightening by department heads and an expected increase in sales tax revenue, the budget carries a proposed $28.4 million property tax levy, which remains unchanged from the adopted 2013 levy.

Supervisors cautioned they still have to look at budget items such as Department of Social Services’ appropriations, final health insurance figures, gas prices and union contract costs. But with an unchanged levy as a start, some supervisors noted county taxpayers may even see a tax decrease next year.

After the release of the Nov.12 tentative budget, supervisors will take a few weeks to review the document further before adopting the final 2014 county budget.

Johnstown 3rd Ward Supervisor Jack Callery, committee chairman, said the county will run well under the budget plan.

“We’re still providing services,” he stated. “It pays to be frugal.”

The committee applied $3.23 million in fund balance to the tentative budget.

County Budget Director Alice Kuntzsch on Thursday took the committee through a review of the budget, including the proposed 2014 county capital plan. After the meeting, she said she won’t have municipal tax rates for the 2014 budget worked out until Nov. 11. Last year, the Board of Supervisors adopted a 2013 county budget showing a 1 percent average property tax-rate increase.

Several supervisors on the committee, including Callery, say they support holding the line on taxes.

“I think zero [increase] should be the goal,” said Bleecker Supervisor David Howard.

But some weren’t ready to make that commitment.

“I want the best budget this collective group can come up with,” said Gloversville 3rd Ward Supervisor Michael F. Gendron. “Where it falls, I

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don’t know.”

Kuntzsch noted several capital plan reductions have been made, such as reducing a proposed $1.1 million Rail Trail project to extend the trail to only $50,000 of local funding for 2014. The county also took several road-construction projects out and moved them to 2015.

Mayfield Supervisor Rick Argotsinger said the only project county Superintendent of Highways and Facilities Mark Yost would “really like to keep in” is one for County Highway 153.

County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said county department heads have been “reasonable” in their equipment requests for 2014.

County Treasurer Terry Blodgett said the county may see some increase in sales tax revenue with the new Gloversville Walmart Supercenter, which opened in August.

The county budgeted $11.4 million in sales tax revenue for 2013, had proposed $11.6 million for 2014, and the committee finally increased revenue to $11.8 million in the tentative budget.

Blodgett said the county is in good shape with the amount of cash it has on hand, versus what’s received on paper.

“Our cash account has been building tremendously,” he said. “We probably have $23 million in the general fund.”

After the meeting, Kuntzsch said the change the board did earlier this year in the county’s 1956 Workers’ Compensation Self-Insurance Plan law has nothing to do with the county’s operating budget and doesn’t affect it.

The amendment shifted the expense for workers’ comp to the municipalities within the county.

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