MALONE Franklin County held a public hearing Thursday on the 2018 tentative budget, using tele-conferencing to connect attendees in Malone, Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake.
County Manager Donna Kissane welcomed the public hearings attendees, noting that it was the first public hearing that the county hosted via tele-conference. In past years, separate hearings have been held in the northern and southern ends of the county.
Kissane gave a short presentation on the $99.1 million tentative budget. She said budgeting is usually a long process, beginning in May when county department heads submit their budget requests.
The process involved much deliberation and compromise, said Kissane, who extended her thanks to the various department heads in general and County Treasurer Bryon Varin who has announced that he will be retiring from his position at the end of the year in particular.
Under the tentative budget presented by Kissane on Thursday, the basic tax rate per $1,000 of assessed property value would slightly decrease from about $4.62 to about $4.56; this would translate to a roughly $7 decrease in taxes on a home assessed at $100,000.
The actual tax rates in individual towns may vary significantly; the rates are affected by a number of factors, including the towns equalization rate the relative value of a propertys assessment as compared to its estimated market value.
The 2018 tentative county budget is calculated to include a total tax levy of $16,565,877, representing an increase of $222,554 from the adopted 2017 county budget - about 1.36 percent. The levy increase is $584,129 less than the state-mandated property tax cap.
Kissane also addressed a resolution passed by the county Legislature earlier that day; the resolution sets the date for another public hearing, allowing a local law authorizing an override of the tax cap. Kissane stressed that the county board does not anticipated going over the tax cap, but passed the override resolution as a precaution.
That is not our intention, said Kissane, reiterating that the tax levy is projected to come in well under the cap.
Both spending and revenue are projected to decrease from the 2017 budget. Total appropriations come to approximately $99.1 million, down from the $103.3 million in the current years budget; total revenue is projected to be about $81.3 million including $1,446,889 from the countys general fund balance down from the roughly $85.3 million in the 2017 budget.
Kissane also drew attention to several planned and completed capital projects the county has undertaken, including major renovations to the Franklin County Jail, the sealing of the Franklin County Courthouse parking lot and upgrades to the courthouses telephone system.
All of the countys capital projects are paid for through the countys mortgage tax reserve fund. Revenue for the fund comes from a 1 percent tax collected on each real estate filing - the money from the fees is split among the county, state and the municipality where the transaction took place.
County officials expressed their relief that Franklin County had managed to improve its fiscal stress score from the state Comptrollers Office in 2016; the most recent report in September showed the county moving from significant fiscal stress to moderate fiscal stress.
That is the hard work of everyone involved in the budget process, said Kissane.
At the Malone meeting point in the county legislative offices, representatives from the Malone Historical and Museum Society and the Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System expressed their gratitude for the countys continued support for their programs.
In the Saranac Lake village offices, gratitude for the countys support of tourism promotion was mixed with concerns that the county was not investing in the southern portion of the county to the extent that was needed.
Local resident Richard Shapiro took part in the public comment period, expressing his concern that funding for the Adirondack Regional Airport had been reduced to $25,000 for the 2018 fiscal year. Shapiro stated that the airport is a regional resource and that the village of Saranac Lake may not be able to support it alone. Shapiro and other residents also drew attention to the state of county roads in the southern portion. One commenter noted that, per the tentative budget, 23 percent of the countys tax levy is coming from the Harrietstown/Saranac Lake area.
Kissane and other officials noted that a significant portion of funding for the airport has been shifted to the economic development area of the budget, but will still go toward that area. They also mentioned that there is a schedule for all county road work that is publicly available.