Seneca County BOS holds budget workshop; questions loom about spending, efforts

“Nothing is going to be perfect,” explained County Manager John Sheppard at the start of Seneca County’s 2018 preliminary budget workshop.

The effort was led by the Board of Supervisors, who sought additional information from Sheppard, who is the Chief Budget Officer. “We’re putting the squeeze on the contingency budget.”

Sheppard noted that Seneca County is largely dependent on sales tax revenue. Around 37 percent of revenues expected in 2018 to the county will come from sales tax collection.

“The expectation was $23 million this year, as we built the budget,” Sheppard explained. The actual revenue is expected to hit $24 million. Next year, Sheppard said the forecasted revenue will be set at $24.5 million in the preliminary budget.

Sheppard said that sales tax will be helped by the $27 million hotel on the del Lago Resort & Casino, which is being developed by the Indus Group. That group, which is not affiliated with the casino or Wilmot family, according to Tyre Town Supervisor Ron McGreevy, is set to construct a 150-room hotel along the New York State Thruway.

“As the market goes, the County goes,” explained Sheppard who contrasted the percentage of sales tax revenue which is used to keep the county tax cap compliant, and to even balance the budget.

Comparatively, just 14 percent of the County’s revenues in 2018 are expected to come from Real Property Tax. Occupancy Tax and other fees and taxes represent 15- and 13 percent respectively.

“The goal is to raise the levy slightly, but remain tax cap compliant,” explained Sheppard during one point of the discussion. “To spend $1 million more would increase the individual tax levy 10 percent.”

There will be roughly $2.5 million in turnover of funds from the 2017 Budget when the fiscal year ends. Those funds are below expectation of the historical reference point, which is $4 million — but a significant improvement over recent years, which saw deep spending of reserve funds.

That turnover of funds from the prior year into the new year, at the municipal level allows the county to continue funding and rebuilding the depleted reserve.

“I think it’s a generally good budget,” said Seneca Falls Town Supervisor Greg Lazzaro. He said that it’s fiscally conservative and keeps the county tax cap compliant, which is the annual goal.

Among the major projects taking shape in 2018, which will contribute to cost inside the budget. The board discussed the following items:

Selling the Public Health Building, which will be vacated in the near-future.
Capital improvement plan calls for $425,000 in spending increases, which translates to 130 percent.

The capital improvements were subject to more scrutiny, which includes necessary work to the building and parking lots. The Law Enforcement Center requires costly work, as well as the prospect of pushing forward a solid waste management plan.

An issue that was prominent last year was the spending of County money to organizations that contribute to the county’s efforts. Like the libraries, animal shelter and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

“These people provide opportunities and services to everyone in Seneca County,” explained Seneca Falls Supervisor Steve Churchill. He suggested taking the funds that would go to the IDA, and using it to ensure all of the organizations got their share.

The board didn’t take any significant action to suggest an alteration to the County Manager’s preliminary budget.

Stay tuned to FingerLakes1.com for more coverage on this session.

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