CATSKILL — Lawmakers adopted a $112.6 million Greene County budget Wednesday, which calls for $2.5 million to be drawn from the county’s reserve fund in 2021, officials said.
The budget will remain relatively flat, with a slight increase of about $500,000. The amount to be raised by taxes will remain at the 2020 level of $27.4 million, with nine of the county’s 14 towns seeing tax-rate reductions, according to the budget document.
Projected revenues for 2021 are down from about $81,000 to $78,500, which reflects an anticipated 20% state aid cut.
“Our legislators and county leaders have done an excellent job holding the line on expenses and continuing to provide essential services during a quite challenging time,” Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said.
“We are anticipating a 20% cut in state funding, and so we are thankful that the fiscal stewardship of 10 years of sales-tax revenue surpluses has contributed to a healthy reserve fund to help us through,” Linger said.
Greene County established a special sales tax reserve fund in 2017 and accumulated $7.5 million in the reserve.
“We’ve delivered a very conservative budget to provide excellent value to our taxpayers,” Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said. “All new jail expenses are included in the 2021 budget.”
At the end of the year, the county is projected to have $49.5 million of debt, with $38 million coming from the new Greene County Jail project.
The 64-bed facility, expected to open in July 2021, is funded by a $39 million bond from Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. at 2.49% interest and an $8.1 million contribution from the county.
The county’s fiscal fitness was measured in a 2019 evaluation by Moody’s Investors Service. The evaluation raised the county’s rating from Aa3 to Aa2 and put Greene County among eight non-New York City counties, including Orange, Putnam, Dutchess and Saratoga, with Aa2 ratings.
The rating represents the relative credit risk of the municipality’s financial standing and the likelihood of defaulting on a long-term obligation, according to the Moody’s website. A ranking of Aa2 represents a lower credit risk than Aa3.
The rating also helped the county to achieve a lower interest rate for the jail project, a savings of $7.7 million over 30 years.
Sales-tax revenue in 2020 is about 3% higher than this time last year, Groden said, and the county is on track to collect the $32.2 million in sales tax projected for 2020.
“We’ll meet the budget, we’ll be OK,” Groden said. “The fact that I can say that through the heart of the pandemic shutdown makes me think, next year, we will get back to some normalcy. Compared to where I was at in April, I’m ecstatic.”
Sales-tax revenue is projected to increase by $500,000 in the 2021 budget, to $32.7 million.
Internet sales have gone from being ranked 15th in sales-tax contributors to fourth, Groden said.
“The phenomenon for sales tax is that the mall may have been closed but people are still buying their sneakers; they’re just doing it online,” Groden said.
Because of a law change in June 2019, internet sales tax is collected in the location where the item is shipped, not where it is shipped from, Groden said.
“People are changing the way they shop, they’re changing the medium by which they shop, but they are still shopping,” he said.