At the Dec. 11 meeting of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, the culmination of many months of work was realized with the passage of the 2020 operating budget.
At that time, I made the following comments, which I would like to share here for the benefit of those not in attendance on Dec. 11.
As in previous years, the county’s determination remains unabated to 1) create greater financial stability by enhancing the fund balance and cash reserves; 2) ensure that the revenue flow into the county remains healthy; 3) to continue to maintain infrastructure; and 4) to provide services to meet the needs of those who struggle in the face of a changing economy and, sometimes, with personal difficulties.
The upgraded Aa3 status that was received from Moody’s continues for 2020, which positively affects the county’s borrowing ability.
No program maintained by the county has been eliminated and no services have been cut. No reduction in the work force has been planned. The 2020 budget contains all the salary increases required under the four respective collective bargaining agreements, as well as equivalent raises for non-union employees and officers.
The county’s commitment to the well-being of its residents is notable, as we have again stayed below the state’s tax cap — the county’s 2020 tax levy is proposed at 1.8%. Further, with a 7% increase in taxable property values, the average county tax rate will decrease by 5%.
With this budget, the county has increased its commitment to education through the approval of the 2020 budget for Columbia-Greene Community College.
We are progressing with phase two of our shared services initiative, which saves the county and its municipalities money. Further, we have continued the development of the county’s new emergency services training center for our volunteer firefighters and emergency service workers, as well as continuing to fund the firefighter cancer benefit insurance for qualified firefighters.
The county continues its comprehensive plan to address the opioid epidemic, recently partnering with Greene County to hire a two-county coordinator and provide increased public awareness. Columbia County is the recipient of a grant that will enable us to work with Columbia University to develop best practices in dealing with the opioid epidemic.
This budget designates $2.5 million for roads and bridges, $2 million toward Columbia-Greene Community College, and continued work and investment regarding the Commerce Park sewer project.
I would like to thank all the Board of Supervisor Committee chairmen and committee members and department heads, whose efforts resulted in a final budget that reflects a realistic assessment of the challenges to be faced in 2020, as well as a commitment to fiscal responsibility.
I must also thank County Treasurer P.J. Keeler and Controller Ron Caponera for their able assistance throughout the past year. In closing, I would also like to thank Supervisor/Deputy Chairman Ronald Knott, Supervisor/Deputy Chairman Richard Keaveney, who also serves as chairman for Finance; supervisors Sarah Sterling, Pat Grattan and Art Bassin; and our Human Resources Director Michaele Williams-Riordon, for their assistance in preparing the budget for 2020.
Reach Matt Murell at email@example.com.