Wyoming County pitches painful budget

Wyoming County has made its 2021 budget available to the public. Tax rate and levy are set to increase.

WARSAW — In any normal year, Wyoming County’s budget tries to minimize taxpayer impact.

But the past year — very obviously — hasn’t been normal, as the county deals with the impact of COVID-19 on its revenues.

The county’s tentative 2021 budget was made available Friday. A public hearing will be conducted 11 a.m. Dec. 1 at the county Government Center on 143 North Main St.

“The pandemic continues to be a major concern, not only putting pressure on the county’s health delivery system, but all departments in the county serving residents in these unprecedented times,” said county Budget Officer Janis Cook in her annual budget message. “There is future uncertainty of the social and economic impact this virus will ultimately have on government operations, businesses and the citizens who are committed to making Wyoming County their home.

“Looking ahead, the county continues to monitor all areas of expenses and revenues closely,” she continued. “However diligent the efforts of our local lawmakers are, the fact remains that New York State is facing crushing deficits which will negatively impact our revenue and the tax levy.”

Budget details include:

n Spending under the proposed budget would increase 2.97 percent, or by $4.52 million to $156,574,452.

n The full-value tax rate would increase 5.17 percent, or 48 cents to $9.71 per $1,000 of assessed value. That means the average owner of a house assessed at $100,000 would pay $971 in county taxes, representing a $47.75 increase compared to 2020.

Those estimates do not reflect additional amounts which could be added for workers compensation, the Board of Elections, the Recycling Program or other re-levies or corrections.

Tax rates in individual towns may also vary widely, depending on equalization rates.

n The general fund tax levy, or amount to be paid in taxes, would increase 8.49 percent, or $1.91 million, to $24.46 million.

A total of $2.76 million in surplus funds would be used to help reduce the tax levy. They would include $1.9 million from the general fund; $650,000 from the highway fund; and $210,410 from the machinery fund.

The greatest impact on this year’s levy is the financial investment needed to support operations at Wyoming County Community Hospital and the adjacent Skilled Nursing Facility.

The facilities have been notified of several reductions from state and federal sources, while they’re simultaneously facing a significant increase in expenses, due to COVID-19 related supplies, testing and protocols. The hospital was also affected by the temporary shutdown of elective surgeries — which generate revenues — earlier this year.

“These challenges, occurring at the same time the hospital began embarking on the expansion of community clinics throughout the county, an investment in a new dialysis center, and the addition of new doctors providing specialty services, has resulted in a severe financial strain,” Cook’s budget message reads.

n The general fund makes up the largest portion of the budget at 45.27 percent or $70.88 million. It’s followed by the hospital fund at 44.7 percent at $69.98 million.

The remaining spending includes the highway fund at 6.93 percent or $10.85 million; the Workers Compensation fund at 1.83 percent or $2.86 million; the machinery fund at 0.86 percent or $1.34 million; the building equipment capital reserve at 0.35 percent or $550,000; and the job training fund at 0.06 percent or $100,000.

n The tentative budget estimates $18.9 in sales tax revenues will be collected. That amount is about $400,000 more than was budgeted in 2020 and is attributed to sales tax collections on internet commerce.

A total of $505,000 will be budgeted to cover the impact of state-imposed diversions of county-generated sales taxes to cover state expenses.

n The county’s total debt as of Nov. 9 was $31,255,944. That total is $2.8 million more than the 2020 amount of $28,447118.

n The proposed budget does not include raises for management or elected personnel.

In most cases, no raises have been budgeted for employees represented by the CSEA bargaining or supervisory units. The Sheriff Employees’ Association and Deputy Sheriff’s Association will receive salary increases based on signed labor agreements.

Copies of the tentative 2021 budget are available at www.wyomingco.net

Johnson Newspapers 7.1