$7M sur­plus won’t be enough to close bud­get gap, con­sul­tant says

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Pa­tri­cia Doxsey pdoxsey@free­manon­line.com pat­ti­at­free­man on Twit­ter

KINGSTON >> Ul­ster County prob­a­bly will end the year with a $7 mil­lion bud­get sur­plus but will need more than dou­ble that amount to bal­ance County Ex­ec­u­tive Michael Hein’s pro­posed 2017 mil­lion bud­get, a con­sul­tant says.

Nick DeSan­tis, of the Westch­ester County con­sult­ing firm O’Con­nor Davies, found lit­tle to crit­i­cize in the $325 mil­lion spend­ing plan for the com­ing year, but he cau­tioned law­mak­ers about its re­liance on the county’s sur­plus fund bal­ance.

Hein has pro­posed draw­ing $15.3 mil­lion from the county fund bal­ance to bal­ance his 2017 bud­get pro­posal.

“You have wisely in your bud­gets used mon-

ies that you have pre­served from the past,” DeSan­tis said. But, he added, con­tin­ued re­liance on that money, without re­plen­ish­ment, could present fis­cal dif­fi­cul­ties in fu­ture years.

The pro­posed bud­get de­vel­oped by Hein calls for spend­ing to de­crease by $5 mil­lion from the cur­rent $330 mil­lion bud­get and for the amount to be gen­er­ated by prop­erty by taxes to drop by 0.25 per­cent, to $76.9 mil­lion.

The con­sult­ing firm said that, over­all, it con­curs with bud­getary pro­jec­tions in the Hein plan and told county law­mak­ers on Thurs­day that they can “feel com­fort­able in the in­tegrity” of the spend­ing plan.

Still, the firm of­fered a few tweaks that it said could save the county about $490,000.

Chris Kopf, a part­ner with O’Con­nor Davies, said the firm rec­om­mends a $100,000 de­crease in an­tic­i­pated sales tax rev­enue for the com­ing year,but also sug­gests county leg­is­la­tors in­crease pro­jected rev­enue from in­ter­est and penal­ties on prop­erty taxes by an equal amount.

The firm also rec­om­mended the county in­crease its ex­pected over­time costs by $136,000 and that it re­duce spend­ing for the Tem­po­rary As­sis­tance to Fam­i­lies wel­fare pro­gram by $160,000.

DeSan­tis said that, in the past year, the county has seen a de­crease in the county caseload that is likely to con­tinue in the com­ing year. He said the firm saw a sim­i­lar down­ward trend in the caseload of the Safety Net pro­gram but that be­cause the county bears a sig­nif­i­cantly higher por­tion of the cost of that pro­gram, the firm did not rec­om­mend any changes to the $10.2 mil­lion bud­geted by Hein.

Kopf and DeSan­tis said if the county Leg­is­la­ture adopts their rec­om­men­da­tions, it should place the funds in the county’s con­tin­gency ac­count to pro­tect against unan­tic­i­pated ex­penses.

The Leg­is­la­ture will hold three pub­lic hear­ings on Hein’s bud­get pro­posal be­gin­ning next week. Once the hear­ings are com­pleted, the body’s Ways and Means Com­mit­tee will be­gin an in-depth re­view of the spend­ing plan.

The full Leg­is­la­ture is ex­pected to adopt a 2017 bud­get on Dec. 7.

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