Essex County Officials Pass Budget Finalizing Plan To Restore Fund Balance

Dec 6, 2017

The Essex County, New York Board of Supervisors has approved its 2018 budget.  The fiscal blueprint is the last of a five-year plan designed to bring the county under the tax cap and stabilize the fund balance.

Essex County’s $105 million spending plan includes a 2.23 percent tax increase, keeping it under the mandated tax cap of 2.40 percent.  Essex County Manager Dan Palmer says it also finalizes a multi-year plan to stabilize the county’s fund balance.  “When the board opted to develop a five year plan you know they specifically wanted to lessen the impact to people on a yearly basis by spreading it out over a longer term.  At the time when I when I originally proposed the plan we proposed either a five or a three year plan. And they felt at the time that the three year was too much of an abrupt change over that period and they felt it would be better to stretch it out further.  So that’s ultimately what we chose to do.”

Town of Willsboro Supervisor Shaun Gillilland is vice-chair of the Board of Supervisors and chairs the Ways and Means Committee.  “For years and years and years the county had been using large amounts of fund balance and year after year it depleted the fund balance down to at one point we considered it to be a dangerously low level. So the Board of Supervisors over the last five years had stuck to the guns and raised taxes every year until we were able to get our fund balance back into healthy shape. And at this point now we’re, we foresee it’s going to be clear sailing ahead without the need to raise taxes unless something unforeseen happens. And if it's something unforeseen happens we have a healthy fund balance in which to handle the unforeseen emergencies.”

Over the course of the five-year budget plan, the total increase in the tax rate was $.45 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, averaging 9 cents per year.  
Town of Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava is the Finance Committee Chair and the Board’s Budget Liaison Officer.   “The budget is within the cap.  Essex County, the county tax, you know we’re one of the lowest in the state you know for the tax rate itself.  You know it won’t be a substantial impact on homeowners.  Part of it is at the end of the five year plan it brings the budget in actually below the cap. You know we have the fund balance built again and it stabilizes for years to come.  You know it was a struggle to get there. But we’re there.”  

Supervisors made no changes and added no amendments to the tentative budget offered by the county manager before passing it on Tuesday.  Gillilland says it was the easiest of the four budgets he has been involved in crafting.   “We weren’t having to deal with a lot of very very contentious issues. So I'm going to say that this was not an extremely difficult year to put the budget together. You know the department heads did a good job in putting their plans forward and Dan Palmer has done a tremendous job in formulating it.”

A link to the 2018 county budget documents are here.