RENSSELAER COUNTY BUDGET TO INCLUDE MODEST TAX REDUCTION, WHILE MAINTAINING AND EXPANDING SERVICES, COUNTY EXECUTIVE STEVE MCLAUGHLIN ANNOUNCES
The proposed 2023 Rensselaer County budget will include a modest property tax rate reduction, while maintaining important and needed county services and a project to improve county facilities, County Executive Steve McLaughlin.
The tax reduction is the fifth consecutive county property tax reduction. Each budget introduced by McLaughlin has included a property tax reduction.
The 2023 budget will include a 1 percent property tax reduction. When combined with the previous four years, county taxes will have been reduced by 20 percent by McLaughlin.
“This year we are again providing a property tax reduction for 2023, our fifth consecutive tax reduction. My team and I are proud to continue our record of offering a property tax reduction during each budget introduced by my administration and await your careful consideration of the proposal,” said McLaughlin.
“Under the 2023 budget, the county tax levy will decrease by 1 percent. While modest, when coupled with the previous tax reductions from the past four years, will mean our taxes have decreased by one-fifth in just five years. A 20 percent reduction in taxes is, we believe, not equaled by any county in the state and shows Rensselaer County is a leader in protecting taxpayers and encouraging other development,” added McLaughlin.
“We should all collectively take pride in the fact that Rensselaer County is becoming recognized across the state as a leader in reducing taxes, and thanks to careful and effective management, we are not only maintaining but expanding important county services,” he concluded.
McLaughlin noted the county’s strong performance in sales tax, which has continued to be healthy in recent months. In 2019, Rensselaer County led the state in sales tax growth. For the 2021 fiscal year, the county for the first time exceeded $100 million in sales tax revenues and earned $110 million in revenues. The county has budgeted conservatively for sales tax, including an $88 million estimate for 2022. For 2023, the county estimates sales tax at $102.5 million.
“We view the property tax reductions as a savings for residents and taxpayers and an investment on future growth and investment. And we have been seeing the positive impacts of that investment as more residents come to our county, more jobs are created and more shoppers come to buy, shop or entertain here,” said McLaughlin.
“These outstanding figures are a direct result of our policies of keeping property taxes low, services and finances strong, and committed to reasonably and responsibly growing our county while maintaining personal freedoms have paid off and made our county a destination for more and more. Let us stay on that track and help ensure we continue our impressive record of success. This budget will help us in that mission,” added McLaughlin.
The budget incorporates the Reimagine Rensselaer County project, which will transform county facilities and expand service and convenience. The Reimagine project will also see the county owning a larger percentage of buildings housing county services than at any time in county history.
The Reimagine project includes the purchase of 99 Troy Road in East Greenbush, which will house a number of county offices and functions. The structure was formerly the home of Rose & Kiernan and occupies a prominent place on Route 4. Social services and related offices will be moved to the existing County Office Building at 1600 7th Avenue in downtown, and Probation will move to the Agriculture and Life Building.
“Along with providing more control and stability for the county over our facilities, there will be a long-term positive impact on county finances. The lease for Social Services and other functions cost the county approximately $12 million over the life of the agreement. At the end of that $12 million, there is no equity, no ownership, and no control over future operations,” said McLaughlin.
“We made the correct move in moving ahead with the Reimagine Rensselaer County option and thank legislators for their unanimous support. Future generations will thank the leaders today for taking the steps to give our county a solid and management foundation to provide the services and support our residents need and deserve,” added McLaughlin.
McLaughlin also criticized the series of so-called criminal justice reforms, including bail reform and raise the age provisions, that have cost the county money and made the county and state less safe.
“You could also look at the criminal justice reforms in this way: The state reforms and counties pay. That is unfair. During the first year of bail reform and new discovery provisions, our county provided nearly $200,000 in additional resources to the District Attorney’s office to cover criminal justice reforms. Over the past four years, that amount has grown to over $250,000 annually. As county taxpayers footed the bill for those expenses, promised revenues from the state were delayed,” said McLaughlin.
“To date, by our estimates, the county by the end of the 2023 fiscal year will have paid nearly $1 million in county taxpayer funds for criminal justice reforms, which is unfair on multiple levels,” added McLaughlin.
McLaughlin said requests for additional funding for criminal justice reform efforts will be considered during the upcoming budget review.
Rensselaer County residents have always recognized the importance of a strong and well-maintained county road network. My administration has made a commitment to improving roads and our county is now recognized as a leader in improving and maintaining roads. During the first four years of my administration, the county paved over 170 miles of roads. This figure included 70 miles of roads in 2021, setting a record, despite a huge storm in July that wiped out several miles of roads and a major bridge.
This year, we have continued our focus on improving county roads, with the county on track to pave over 35 miles of roads. The amount paved this year means the county will have paved 200 miles of roads in just five years, or close to two-thirds of the total 330 miles included in the county road network.
McLaughlin also acknowledged the service of Budget Director Stacey Farrar, who will be retiring at the end of the year. The budget introduced by Farrar is her last as Budget Director following a 30-year-career with the county.
“Her work has not been easy. She is often the first in, and the last out. She is regularly here on weekends, holidays, and is relentless in her mission. She has been careful, meticulous, conscientious and translator of all things numerical and fiscal. Stacey is also irreplaceable,” said McLaughlin.
“We will miss her, and certainly hope she keeps her phone or computer close by on whatever pool or beach she will call her next office. God bless, and good luck Stacey Farrar, and on behalf of the residents of Rensselaer County, thank you for your outstanding service. This budget is dedicated to you,” he added.
McLaughlin said he looks forward to a positive budget review process and a continuation of the cooperation seen during other budget reviews and approvals.
“We look forward to a productive and positive review and eventual consideration of this budget document for fiscal year 2023. The spending plan as presented reflects months of hard, honest and needed work to forecast often challenging fiscal currents and ensure taxpayers are protected and residents served in 2023. The work we do in the coming weeks and during the upcoming fiscal year, will hopefully strengthen our county, expand on recent success and improve quality of life and prosperity for all in Rensselaer County,” said McLaughlin.
“As I stated during the State of the County for 2022, we are just getting started,” he concluded.