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Officials Unveil 2018 Saratoga County Budget Proposal

Lucas Willard

A tentative 2018 budget has been unveiled for Saratoga County. WAMC's Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports the budget will remain within the state mandated tax cap while officials hope to complete a project that has been in the works for more than a decade.

Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chair Ed Kinowski and County Administrator Spencer Hellwig discussed the tentative 2018 county budget on Wednesday morning.

Kinowski called the budget a balanced plan that lowers the tax rate and maintains services.

“Everything is on the edge, as far as I’m concerned,” said Kinowski. “We’re running lean and mean. And that’s an old term but it fits this county very well.”

Saratoga County has about 227,000 residents and some of the lowest property taxes in the state. The 2018 rate is proposed at $2.29 per thousand dollars of assessed value.

One of the major capital projects included in the $319 million spending plan is  $15.3 million for public safety complex in Milton.

Kinowski said a new public safety building has been a need for more than a decade.

“It will put a focus, quite frankly, on a broader spectrum of public safety for us. From emergency management right on through to our service departments,” said Kinowski. “So I really feel in my heart it is the right thing to do.”

The second largest capital project is about $4.5 million for highway reconstruction, targeting 21 miles of roads.

Some challenges facing the county, according to Administrator Hellwig, include unfunded mandates by the state. It’s a common complaint among local leaders.

Totaling more than $60 million, with about $26 million dedicated to DSS/Medicaid alone, Hellwig said the mandates are 104 percent of the property tax levy.

Though property values are rising with increased development, Hellwig said the tax cap law limits how much the county can raise the tax levy. 

“We’ve got this massive growth on one hand. And prior to the tax cap initiative, we were able to adjust the services at the county level and the expenses related to those services based on the additional revenue that was generated from that growth. Now, this is where you can go – regardless of the level that was generated up here – you can’t exceed this,” said Hellwig.

Discussions on the budget are just beginning. Budget hearings with the county Law and Finance Committee will be held November 14. A budget workshop is set for November 20th. Public hearings are set for December 6, and a budget is scheduled to be adopted on December 13th.

Saratoga Springs supervisor Peter Martin attended Wednesday’s presentation. He supports the plan to build a new public safety complex, but said he will review the budget to make sure other programs important to his constituents are well supported.

“It’s time to do that; it changes our focus a little bit,” said Martin. “And I just want to make sure that as we’re changing our focus we’re not losing the focus that we’ve had in the past on certain other important services.

For more information: http://www.saratogacountyny.gov/wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/2018-Tentative-Budget.pdf

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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