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Executive Fiala Announces 2011 Proposed Budget

Slashes spending by $8M, cuts 115 jobs
 

(Binghamton, NY) Broome County Executive Barbara J. Fiala unveiled her 2011 proposed spending plan Thursday evening. Executive Fiala says her proposed budget cuts 115 positions and eliminates almost $8M in spending. 

The positions eliminated from the 2011 budget include, layoffs, positions left open through attrition as well as incentivized retirements and they impact almost every single department in County Government. 

“Almost 75% of our departments are experiencing a reduction in staff,” said Executive Fiala. “The rest either are too small or provided cuts in previous budgets.”

The 2011 Broome County spending plan proposes a 5.35% increase in the property tax rate. It also represents a $1.5 million dollar or .38% increase in year to year spending. The proposed tax rate means an additional .63 per thousand dollars of assessed value or about $50 more per year for an average home valued at $80,000.

“I know it is hard for people to understand why there has to be an increase at all and it is possible legislators can whittle down the amount even more,” added Fiala. “But what people have to understand is that our DSS mandated costs are increasing $6.7M next year and our pension costs are increasing $3.7M. That is why we made $8M worth of cuts to personnel and other expenses.”

Fiala says it is hard for the public to understand that government workers play an important role in our society providing services like: 911 dispatching, Sheriff’s patrols, emergency response to disasters and accidents, Public Health outreach including H1N1 vaccinations, DMV processing of licenses and passports, road and bridge repair and maintenance, snowplowing in the winter, as well as the maintaining of our recreational areas, just to name a few.

“We are working to reduce the number of workers but there also comes a point when the loss of those workers will mean a reduction in services,” Fiala said. “I think at this point we will still be able to maintain every service we currently provide but certainly things may take longer to process and lines may be longer as well for services but that is just a fact of life for all of us.”

Fiala also announced that there would be no natural gas revenues included in her 2011 proposed spending plan. She said revenues budgeted for 2010 are being covered by savings experienced in 2010. 2011 will start with a clean slate regarding natural gas and again the Executive is keeping it a clean slate with no revenues budgeted at all.

The County does have a new offer on the table from the same company that made a lease offer to the County previously, Inflection Energy. But it will be up to lawmakers to decide whether to accept that lease offer and whether they want to put revenues in the final 2011 spending plan.

In addition to spending cuts in the operating budget, the County is also reducing the amount of net County support provided to its Capital Improvement Program. In the past the amount was budgeted for around $1M. Next year it will be capped at approximately $600,000. This also means no new fleet cars will be purchased next year.

Fiala also highlighted some bright spots in the proposed budget as well some positive general economic news. Including:

  • Sales tax revenues are beginning to improve year to year.
  • Unemployment in the region is on the decline from a high of almost 10% earlier this year.
  • Boardings at the Binghamton Regional Airport are up significantly year to year.
  • Hotel-Motel tax receipts are increasing year to year.
  • FMAP assistance continues with $2.85M coming to Broome from the federal government.
  • County healthcare costs contained to an increase of only 2.3%.

Executive Fiala is also proposing eliminating the exemption on sales tax on clothing for items $110 and below. That move would bring an additional $6M into County coffers and while it is not a palatable move, Executive Fiala believes it is fairer to do this instead of transferring that burden to the property taxpayer.

Fiala also reminded lawmakers that the County’s Medicaid burden remains extremely high. It is one of the largest single items in the budget at $37.6M and continues to increase $1.2M each year. Some lawmakers in the past have argued that the cap on Medicaid meant the problem was “fixed”. Executive Fiala maintains this is still a problem “seeking a solution!”

Click here to see the Proposed Budget

 

 

09/23/2010 - 5:15pm