By Debra J. Groom
Oswego County began down the road to structuring a county budget Feb. 27, as the legislature’s finance and personnel committee heard a report about pros and cons that will affect the 2015 spending plan.
County Administrator Philip Church told those at the meeting about the significant factors that will affect the budget, what the big picture looks like right now concerning the 2015 spending plan and the legal process for putting together a budget.
So far, there are a number of negatives that could affect the budget.
One is the proposed state budget from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He has proposed reducing revenue to the county health department by about $30,100, increasing the county’s Medicaid payment by 1 percent or $256,140 and leveling off funding for other county departments.
Other factors that will or could increase costs in 2015 are:
** Recently adopted union contracts have increased payroll by about $730,000 and three other bargaining units still have contracts pending.
** Tax agreements with Nine Mile Point 1 and 2 expire in December. They amount to $10 million.
** A public safety grant ends this year that total $500,000.
** An upcoming landfill expansion that could cost about $3.5 million.
** Nearly $800,000 in Medicaid offset revenue may not be renewed for 2015.
** The state is revising its formula for computing community college chargebacks. Impact of how this would affect the county is unknown.
** The tax agreement with Entergy concerning the James FitzPatrick Nuclear Station is in court and will probably be heard by a judge by year’s end. This totals about $6 million.
Add to this a trend of two-years of increases in Safety Net program (a state mandated public welfare program that provides benefits to people who have timed out of their federal welfare) payments (up 16 percent or more than $727,000 in two years) and sales tax revenue being flat ($41.5 million) and Oswego County already has its work cut out for it in putting together a budget.
Church also said some “vulnerabilities” facing the county are low amounts in reserves (nearly $3 million in fund balance, $2 million in retirement reserve and $500,000 in debt reserve) and the trend toward full value assessments “coming down,” which would lead to fewer tax dollars coming in.