County’s 2012 financial report: Legislators urged to use caution

by Carol Thompson

Members of the Oswego County Legislature’s Finance and Personnel Committee were recently presented with the 2012 financial report and urged to use cautionary measures for the remainder of the year to prevent slipping into a financial crisis.

The county’s chief accountant, Mark See, presented the overview. He explained that the financial pattern from previous years is emerging.

“If you look at the pattern from the previous 1998 through 2001, there’s a trend,” he said. “With the budget being so tight, there’s not a lot of room to rebuild the fund balance.”

The pattern See referred to is what led to the 2002-2003 financial crisis that resulted in a massive layoff and a property tax increase.

See said while the county isn’t to that point, he cautioned that it could very well slip into the crisis-mode of a decade ago.

“It’s good that we have reserves, but those have decreased also,” he said. “They need to be replenished because if not, they will have to come out of the operating budget and that would have the potential to raise taxes.”

See cautioned, “It’s starting to look like 2003. We’re not there yet, but we need to plan for it.”

County Administrator Philip Church addressed the pattern. “Back then, the reasons for that were three,” he said, referencing the loss of revenue, declining PILOT agreements and increased Medicaid costs.

The administrator added that he is trying to decrease the dependence on using the fund balance.

“I think we need to pay attention to the signs,” he said. “What I’m saying is, we’re in good shape but we have this internal pattern we’re seeing and we’re seeing this happening in other counties.”

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