Embattled Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin releases budget proposal
Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin is proposing a nearly $380 million budget for 2023.
The Republican noted his fifth budget presentation includes a fifth consecutive tax reduction.
"We came into office here in 2018, that adopted budget had an average tax rate of $5.84 per $1000. In 2019, we dropped it, in 2020 we dropped it, in ‘21 we dropped it," McLaughlin said. "By 2022 it went from $5.84 to $4.75. This year, it drops another 10% in the average rate, another 10% drop, it's now down. Once this budget is adopted $4.24 per $1000. Pretty amazing results. That is a 27% drop in the property tax rate in five years.”
Speaking Thursday in Troy, McLaughlin says under the 2023 budget, the county tax levy will decrease by 1%. McLaughlin says the property tax reductions have encouraged the continued growth and helped attract projects like Amazon.
"And now a second Amazon project is underway," said McLaughlin. "And there are many, many projects going on throughout the county up and down Route 7, out on 9 and 20. East Greenbush is booming. There's new, a new apartment complex coming online soon and he screams that will feature an attractive mix of residential and commercial space. Add to that a very long list of ribbon cuttings that we've all been at throughout the county. And the facts are clear. Rensselaer County is moving in the right direction and building for an even stronger future. Our sales tax returns also remain very healthy and continue to show growth. We have budgeted reasonably and conservatively for sales tax, and numbers for sales tax in the county have regularly and significantly exceeded our expectations."
McLaughlin noted that last year for the first time ever, Rensselaer County collected over $100 million dollars in sales tax revenue. He added that county debt has been slashed by $25 million dollars over the last two years while $30.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding is being used to improve infrastructure.
Rensselaer County Legislature Deputy Minority Leader Cynthia Doran says she and fellow legislators look forward to perusing and studying the budget document when they receive it.
“Certainly the news is promising that Rensselaer County is moving forward," said Doran. "And that we're holding our own with, with sales tax revenue, our financial situation appears to be very positive. And we have a lot of changes that have been made, we're going to be moving a lot of county services to 99 Troy Road. We will own that building now. We've paved a lot of roads. We've invested a lot in this county, we have a new senior center that will be opening in Troy.”
Doran, a Democrat, says she remains "positive at this point." McLaughlin tells reporters he's proud that his administration is "really tight with a buck."
"We don't throw money around, we're really cheap," said McLaughlin. "I mean, I'm literally at the point where I review every travel request that an employee makes. And if they're taking two cars, I'm saying why aren't you taking one?' We're tight, and we try to be really good shepherds of the money for the people. And so far it's working. We can't control everything, can't control an economy that's probably going to turn down, but everybody's going to have to deal with that. So we're as prepared as we can be. And I think the county is in really good shape."
McLaughlin defied calls to resign early this year after New York State Attorney General Tish James alleged he stole thousands of dollars in campaign contributions while serving in the state Assembly. He was indicted by a grand jury on two felony charges.
James says around the time McLaughlin was first elected County Executive in November 2017, he withdrew $5,000 from his campaign fund and directed a portion of that money be given to a staffer to pay off personal debts.
In response to McLaughlin's comments, a spokesperson for James’ office said “We follow the facts of every single case, and the fact here is that Steve McLaughlin was indicted for breaking the law and violating the public’s trust.”