Facing a 10-percent increase in the tax levy for 2016, it was clear that Wyoming County officials needed to take action and reduce expenditures. It was time to ask the community what local services were most important to them – all the county levy and some local revenue are spent on state-mandated services.
Public forums were held in the Spring throughout the county, providing a platform for ideas, questions and answers. According to Wyoming County Board of Supervisors Chairman Doug Berwanger, the meetings were “successful” and the feedback was “phenomenal.”
The proposed 2016 budget appropriations total $123,289,676, which reflect a 1-percent decrease or $1,247,680 less than 2015. In an effort to reduce the tax levy, surplus funds have been applied from the General and the Highway funds for a total of $1.4 million.
Additionally, due to unusually large potential unpaid tax liabilities identified in 2015, it was deemed prudent for the county to increase the Reserve for Uncollectible taxes by $300,000. That amount was added directly to the total tax levy for 2016; a 0-percent increase for a home with a full value of $92,000 (median sale value 2014).
While the overall tax rate would increase 1.26 percent, Genesee Falls, Pike and Wethersfield will see a decrease. Here's the breakdown:
• Genesee Falls -- 2 percent decrease;
• Pike -- 3 percent decrease;
• Wethersfield -- 4 percent decrease;
• Arcade -- 2.13 percent increase;
• Attica -- no increase;
• Bennington -- 4.44 percent increase;
• Castile -- 2.04 percent increase;
• Covington -- no increase;
• Eagle -- no increase;
• Gainesville -- 5.26 percent increase;
• Java -- 1.18 percent increase;
• Middlebury -- 3.09 percent increase;
• Orangeville -- 2.04 percent increase;
• Perry -- no increase;
• Sheldon -- 3.49 percent increase;
• Warsaw -- 2.04 percen increase;
However, the state property tax cap limits the increase in taxes levied by local governments and school districts to 2 percent (or the rate of inflation). It also allows for real property growth in the tax base. The state calculated the cap for the county to allow for an increase of 1.01 percent, due to the low rate of inflation. Therefore, a local law to override the property tax cap must be adopted before the budget can be accepted.
A public hearing to adopt Local Law No. G Year 2015 has been scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Dec. 8 in the Supervisors’ Chambers, 2nd floor of the Wyoming County Government Center, 143 N. Main St., Warsaw.
Other budget details include:
• The tentative budget does not include salary increases for management and elected personnel. Additionally, in most funds, no salary increases have been budgeted for employees represented by the CSEA (union) bargaining unit, the Sheriff Employees’ Association and the Deputy Sheriff’s Association or the Schedule E CSEA Supervisory unit (WCCH) as negotiations are currently in process.
• Several staff reductions are reflective including a combination of retirements, elimination of some temporary and seasonal staff, as well as reducing hours of some positions. This resulted in an estimated savings of roughly $240,000 for the General Fund and $200,000 for the Hospital fund.
• The tentative budget reflects the cost of computer capital equipment purchased by the Information Technology Department. This allows for a more efficient process by incorporating the most up-to-date changes in technology.
• Money has been allocated for the purchase of new vehicles by the Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Social Services.
The board also reduced the budgets of its partner agencies by 20 percent, saving roughly $150,000.
The 2016 allocations for these Wyoming County agencies include:
• Chamber of Commerce and Tourism: $135,984;
• Business Education Council: $4,300;
• Business Center: $60,000;
• Arts Council: $11,432;
• Wildlife Federation: $904.32; and
• Soil and Water: $128,130.12.
Other agencies include:
• Cornell Cooperative Extension: $364,400; and
• Wyoming County Fair Association: $18,000.
After property taxes, sales tax is the next largest revenue source in the county’s General Fund. An estimated $16,950,000 will be collected in sales tax revenue in 2016. On average, counties across the state could safely estimate a 3-percent increase in sales tax revenue a year. However, in Wyoming County, actual receipts show this amount has not budged since 2012.
While one of the main sources of sales tax in the county is from gasoline sales, consumers also need to spend money at local shops and markets. To encourage residents to do their holiday shopping in the county, the Chamber of Commerce initiated an annual holiday season campaign – Shop Local. The success of the campaign is evident in the total sales receipts entered each year.
As of Nov. 15, the total indebtedness for the county is $32,845,000 – $1,964,000 less than the 2015 amount of $34,809,000. A majority of the debt is associated with the renovations to Wyoming County Community Hospital and Nursing Facility; a balance of approximately $195 million remains. The other large investment was made to the county’s road infrastructure – a balance of $8.3 million.
A public hearing of the tentative 2016 budget will be held at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 1 in the Supervisors’ Chambers, 2nd floor of the Wyoming County Government Center, 143 N. Main St., Warsaw.
For the complete tentative budget report visit http://www.wyomingco.net/ or pick one up at the Board of Supervisors Office.