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With Buyouts And No Tax Hike, Albany County Executive Unveils $719.3M Budget

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy enters the Cahill Room at the County Office building to give a COVID-19 update.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy enters the Cahill Room at the County Office building to give a COVID-19 update.

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy has released his budget plan for 2021. McCoy says the proposal is under the state mandated tax cap for the eighth straight year and does not increase the tax rate.
McCoy, a Democrat, points out the package is $13 million less than the 2020 adopted budget of $732.6 million, and notes this is the third year in a row the average property owner will see their tax rate decrease.

"The average $150,000 house would see a dollar decrease in their taxes. And I wish it was more than that, but this is why I built up the reserves, this is why we got ready for a rainy day, our rainy day fund, and got prepared. Because this is when Albany County residents need us the most. They need to continue to get the quality services that we give 'em, day in and day out, but they need relief, and we deliver that with this budget. The tax rate has decreased over the last several years and our tax rate is per $1,000 of equalized assessed value has gone down from $3.95 to $3.48 since 2014. And the thing I take pride in this budget too, is there's no layoffs or cuts in programs or services, both during the global health crisis that we're in and the economy crisis that we're facing."

McCoy says the budget proposal ensures the county can move forward without layoffs or other consequences if federal stimulus money doesn't materialize. The county’s sales tax revenue is down 6.33%, with hotel occupancy tax down a third during the pandemic.

"What has helped us that I offered early on, I did two things right out of the get-go, I slowed up hiring, which saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars, we slowed that up and we only hired people that we essentially really needed. And I offered the employee separation buyout, which we had over 100 people put in for, and we had to identify whatever position we eliminated was never coming back. We ended up approving 72 employees approved for separation, saving Albany County about $5 million alone next year."

McCoy says there will be no effect on county services as a result of the employee buyout. He says his proposed budget uses $3 million in fund balance of the $60 million that had been built up as well as $5 million in debt reserve.

"So we took about $8 million there, and, but we're still facing our priorities going forward, we still have to function. Our land bank, which I helped create, that stops blight from going to the suburbs, we still give them $250,000 in next year's budget which is a total obligation of $3 million in cash that we've given them. And also one of the things too, you know the Hurrell-Harring indigent legal defense reform I championed and wrote in this office that got passed across the state, is bringing in 100 percent grant-funded positions that's not gonna cost us anything, that's gonna give people that don't have the means to defend themselves to have the same outcome as someone else that does."

Echoing other local leaders, McCoy points out that 80% of the total budget is mandated spending, the majority of which is unfunded.

"I'm very proud of what we have been able to accomplish within this budget, particularly given the circumstances we encountered this year. And I wanna say this to your listeners, and I know this is what they're gonna care about the most. Regardless of what I just said to you, they're gonna care about no tax increase, no layoffs, no cuts in programs or services."

The budget goes to the Democrat-controlled county legislature for review. It must accept or amend McCoy’s proposal by mid-December.

The full 2021 Executive Budget can be found on the Albany County website at the below link:  http://www.albanycounty.com and click on the rotator on the home page.  You can also watch Dan McCoy's budget presentation below.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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