Legislature Chairman Reflects On Budget Process

To The Editor:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank members of the Oswego County Legislature on both sides of the aisle, as well as county department heads and administration, for their work on the 2015 Oswego County budget.

The budget which was adopted Dec. 11 demonstrates that, like responsible families and businesses, Oswego County government is making a concerted effort to spend less money and use less of its reserve accounts to pay for expenses.

The 2015 spending plan is approximately $305,040 less than the 2014 county budget.

After holding the line on taxes for nearly 10 years during the recession, there is a small increase to the county tax levy — of slightly more than 1 percent — bringing the average tax rate to $7.49 per thousand of assessed value.

The actual tax rates paid by property owners may vary depending on their municipality’s assessed property value, equalization rates, and local costs for workers’ compensation and community college chargeback rates.

On your 2015 tax bill, these latter two costs will be itemized for you.

The 2015 adopted budget contains $196,849,941 in appropriations, with $53,799,948 raised by the property tax levy.

The record demonstrates the county’s history of cost-containment, budget management, multi-year planning, and careful use of fund balance and reserves.

This budget cut our reliance on fund balance and reserves in half. Our goal is to get to the point where we don’t need to use any reserve funds to balance the budget.

State-mandated programs continue to be the most significant factor affecting Oswego County finances. More than 80 percent of the entire county budget pays for state and federal mandates such as Medicaid and public assistance —  every penny of a resident’s property tax bill pays for state-mandated programs and not local services like snowplowing and law enforcement.

We’ll continue to be faced with the difficult decision of lowering our reliance on fund balance and reserves, or using funds from the reserve accounts to lower taxes.

The budget that was just approved accomplished the important step of using less of the county fund balance while reducing expenses.

It is imperative that we continue the effort to preserve our reserve funds going forward.

I thank the Legislature, department heads, and county administrator Phil Church and his staff for their diligence and integrity in adhering to this goal.

I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year.

Kevin Gardner, Chairman
Oswego County Legislature
District 13, New Haven