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Rensselaer County

Office of County Executive Steve McLaughlin

News Release: October 19, 2018

Contact Richard Crist

Office: (518) 270-2955

Cell: (518) 928-1920

RENSSELAER COUNTY 2019 BUDGET PROPOSAL FROM COUNTY EXECUTIVE STEVE MCLAUGHLIN AVOIDS TAX INCREASE; 8TH CONSECUTIVE BUDGET UNDER TAX CAP AND MAINTAINS FISCAL STABILITY; SHOWS OPTIMISM ON RECENT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The proposed 2019 Rensselaer County budget will maintain or improve county services while avoiding a property tax increase, stated County Executive Steve McLaughlin.

McLaughlin introduced the zero-tax increase spending plan, his first since taking office as Executive, at an announcement in the legislative chambers on Friday afternoon. The budget for 2019 comes in at almost $347 million.

Rensselaer County now has compiled a record of eight consecutive budgets that remain under the state tax cap, while also maintaining a strong bond rating and earning a series of positive independent audits.

“During the previous months, we have applied time-honored fiscally responsible, common-sense fiscal and budget principles in areas of county government. We have earned some positive results during the current fiscal year, and some of those results are reflected in the 2019 budget,” said McLaughlin.

“These results have not come without effort, ingenuity, hard work and sacrifice in some areas. It is my intention that this budget continues the progress made this year and in previous years,” added McLaughlin.

Providing budget stability, continued county services, including services for seniors, veterans and youths, and avoiding a property tax increase in 2019 were priorities in the new spending plan, said McLaughlin.

“We have adhered to the idea of providing the highest level of service at a rate that our county residents and taxpayers can afford. This budget seeks to maintain services while avoiding a tax increase, thereby staying under the state property tax cap again,” said McLaughlin.

The 2019 budget does reflect some optimism about the county’s future and growth in the national economy. The county was recently selected by Amazon for location of a distribution center in Schodack, and retail activity has been on the rise in the county during 2018. The 2019 budget includes a modest increase in expected sales tax revenue to the county, which is shared with our cities and towns.

“The 2019 budget proposal is introduced at a unique time in our county’s history. We are now seeing tremendous opportunities for growth and renewal in Rensselaer County, with projects that can dramatically strengthen our economy and provide opportunity for future generations,” said McLaughlin.

During the first three quarters of 2018, Rensselaer County has already seen a significant savings in key areas of county government at McLaughlin’s direction.

The county has saved approximately $1 million in savings in personnel costs during 2018, largely by keeping positions unfilled, or vacant for an extended period. The county also reached a savings of $600,000 in new purchasing efficiencies and strategies. The county has also created a $500,000 savings to the county for retiree health care, with $300,000 to be saved by retirees annually.

Along with the savings, the county was able to make investments in key areas during 2018. An additional $500,000 was allocated for paving projects in 2018, and just under $700,000 spent for highway equipment.

The savings will help the county navigate new challenges and unexpected costs, especially costs driven from the state level.

“State leaders were confronted with significant deficits and spending irregularities in recent months, but largely, postponed consideration of these difficult issues. Sadly, those problems still exist, and with state elections wrapping up this fall, we can expect them to be addressed in 2019. If the state sticks with its traditional methodology, the fiscal problems left unaddressed on the state level will be passed down to those of us on the county and the local levels. Unfortunately, that can mean a disruption of our good work,” said McLaughlin.

Highlights of the 2019 budget proposal:

–           No county property tax increase for 2019

–           Budget would be 8th consecutive county budget under property tax cap

–           Budget projects a 5 percent increase in sales tax

–           Budget will maintain county’s strong fiscal position and solid bond ratings

–           $47.2 million in costs for operation of Van Rensselaer Manor nursing home

–           Just under $35 million is spent on Medicaid by county

–           $2.6 million in indigent legal services, with county waiting on costs for new mandates

–           Slight decrease to $16 million for Early Intervention and Special Needs

–           $11.9 million in pension costs for 2020, of which 75 percent will be paid in 2019, with costs remaining steady

“This is a starting point to the 2019 budget process, but I believe we are at a good place to begin this important process. I look forward to working with legislators to review, consider and eventually adopt this budget in an efficient and productive manner,” said McLaughlin.

For more information, regarding this press release, call County Director of Operations Richard Crist, 518-270-2955 or 518-928-1920.