County plan calls for cut in taxes

JOHNSTOWN – Fulton County’s tentative 2014 budget released today calls for a nearly 3 percent decrease in the average county tax rate.

Budget Director Alice Kuntzsch made public the $85 million county budget proposal, which shows the tax levy would remain at this year’s level of $28.4 million.

County property taxpayers would get a break, however. The budget proposal shows a 2.6 percent decrease in the average county tax rate, or 31 cents less per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The tentative average tax rate in the county would be $11.42 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Kuntzsch was scheduled to give a public presentation about the tentative budget at 2 p.m. today in the supervisors’ chambers of the County Office Building.

The county Board of Supervisors was scheduled to vote later today to “accept” the budget, which means it would be reviewed in future meetings. Supervisors are expected to adopt the 2014 county budget in either late November or early December.

Fulton County hasn’t seen an average tax-rate decrease in years. “I think we’re seeing signs of stability, I really do,” Kuntzsch said today.

She said the total assessed valuation for the county is up by 2.7 percent for next year, mainly do to revaluations in the towns, especially in the town of Stratford.

The county’s Capital Projects Committee applied $1.6 million from capital reserves to offset infrastructure investments for 2014.

In June, for the third consecutive year, the Board of Supervisors gave itself the option to override the property-tax cap in the county’s 2014 budget. The state gives county governments the option of overriding the cap.

The tentative 2014 appropriations in the budget total $85.4 million – a roughly 4 percent decrease in the county’s $88.8 million 2013 adopted budget. The new budget is down by $3.5 million from the current budget.

Federal and state aid decreased by 18.4 percent, or $4.4 million. Other revenues in the budget are expected to rise by 5 percent, or $1.2 million.

Kuntzsch said the Budget Review Committee applied $3.2 million of general fund balance, $500,000 of road fund balance and $64,275 of road machinery fund balance to the budget.

Toward the end of the budget process, supervisors are expected to review the fund balance again to determine the appropriate final amount to apply to the budget.