RENSSELAER COUNTY LEADING THE WAY WITH LOWER TAXES, EXPANDED SERVICES AND RECORD JOB CREATION, COUNTY EXECUTIVE STEVE MCLAUGHLIN TELLS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE IN ANNUAL STATE OF THE COUNTY ADDRESS
Rensselaer County is finding new opportunity and economic and service success despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, County Executive Steve McLaughlin told members of the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce during his annual State of the County address on Thursday.
McLaughlin told Chamber members the county is thriving during the time of COVID-19 thanks to effective fiscal and government policies employed by his administration during the past four years.
“There is a great deal to be optimistic about in Rensselaer County. Despite challenges and complications, a long pandemic and economic uncertainty on the national level our county has seen significant success and important accomplishments. Some of these victories have been unprecedented and historic and show our county is reaching new heights. In fact, Rensselaer County is emerging as a leader in the state in key economic areas and financial accomplishments,” said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin pointed to his administration’s four consecutive property tax reductions, including a 10 percent property tax decrease for the county in 2021. The county tax rate after four reductions, he noted, is now comparable to the rate paid by residents in 2002.
The county has also improved important services in recent years, including the paving of 170 miles of roads in four years and construction of seven bridges, started work on an emergency services training center and tower, and began work to establish a new senior center in Troy, among other projects. Those improvements have helped attract new investment and opportunity to the county.
Because of that record, the county is continuing to see strong interest from investors and job creators, said McLaughlin. That interest is expected to continue in the coming months, the County Executive said.
“Look at what was accomplished during these past four years: the continued expansion of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals to a major force in the region and the location of the Amazon center in Schodack. We earned the attention of these major economic forces through hard work: property tax reductions, service improvements, efficiencies in county government that reduce expenses and partnerships with those who grow our county in positive ways,” said McLaughlin.
“Our work and our shared efforts have poised this county for further greatness. The difficult choices made during the past four years, our commitment to stay on course despite the pandemic and other turbulence, and our willingness to go further and faster at times to reach our goal is paying off,” he added.
The county was one of three counties in the entire state to show an increase in GDP during the height of the pandemic in 2020, McLaughlin said. The county also cleared $100 million in sales tax revenue for the first time, after leading the state in sales tax growth during 2019. The county also earned a Zero on the fiscal stress score administered by the State Comptroller’s office, while other counties and municipalities showed stress.
“For our county to grow our GDP during a time of shutdowns and quarantines is proof we are on the right road to prosperity and better times. We hope this message rings loudly with investors, job creators and anyone else considering a home or business in our great county,” said McLaughlin.
“We have made our financial choices carefully and on a solid foundation. Rensselaer County earned a Zero fiscal stress score from the State Comptroller, all despite the pandemic and economic uncertainty in other areas. Earning the Zero fiscal stress rating was done each day, by taking extra care with purchases, with personnel hires and with careful planning and accurate fiscal forecasts. Many others across the state were not able to a Zero rating or even a rating that shows stability. We recognize the rating as an advertisement of our effectiveness in managing county finances and serving as a solid place for investment and growth,” he said.
The county has also reduced debt by $35 million and avoided issuing new debt, except for the training tower project, McLaughlin said. Work is continuing through the winter on the training tower.
“During the past four years, we have been able to reduce our debt by $35 million, all while improving services in important areas. To fund our efforts at building services and reducing taxes and encouraging investment we have focused on reducing expenses and not incurring new debt. Our care in not issuing new debt further positions our county for strong moves in the coming months and years,” said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin also discussed plans by the county to create new infrastructure in Schodack through a partnership with the town on the Route 9 & 20 and Route 9 corridors. The infrastructure will help create new opportunity in the area between Exit 10 and Exit 12 off I-90.
“The service will be extended through utilization of funds received by the American Rescue Plan by the county, with the two projects expected to cost a total of approximately $13.1 million. The town will be covering engineering costs for the projects. The county will cover costs for the project, and the town will cover costs for engineering for the water and sewer lines on Route 9 and Routes 9 & 20, and total approximately $10.5 million,” said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin also credited the county’s response to the pandemic as being effective, and centered around common-sense and compassion.
“The county saw our first COVID-19 case in March of 2020. We are ready to enter our third year of COVID-19. We have taken stands when needed, and when it was right. We opposed Governor Cuomo when he tried to force COVID positive seniors into nursing homes. We have advocated for a rational, science-based approach. We have focused on results, rather than pronouncements,” said McLaughlin.