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Preston Delivers 2016 Budget Address

Binghamton, NY – Broome County Executive Debbie Preston outlined her proposed financial outlook for 2016 in her annual Budget Address in front of the Broome County Legislature.

“Last year, I told you about all the difficult choices that had to be made,” says Preston.  “This year, the decisions were even tougher but I’m confident we came up with a responsible budget for the almost 200-thousand people of Broome County.”

This year’s proposed budget is a $367 million spending plan.  It comes with a tax levy increase of 2.21%, which is below the 2.3% cap from New York State.  Roughly $708,000 equals 1 percent in property taxes.

“New York State’s cap is making it more difficult for municipalities to craft responsible budgets,” Preston says.  “Our unfunded and underfunded mandates keep increasing, while our revenues stay about the same.  This causes us to have to make very difficult decisions.”

Unfunded and underfunded mandates equal about $212 million, which is 68% of the entire budget.

 

Sales Tax Sharing

When Preston took office in 2012, she promised to return to a 50/50 sales tax split with the local municipalities.

In 2013 and 2014, the County returned 10% each year. In 2015, there was no increase. Preston is proposing to get back on track by returning an additional 10% to municipalities this year.

“Last year, we had to forego an increase due to financial challenges and that hurt our local municipalities,” says Preston.  “While we could have done it again this year, I refuse to pass the burden and therefore will continue on my quest to return sales tax to a 50/50 split.”

 

Studies

County Executive Preston believes that sometimes you have to spend money to save money or even make money in the long run.

In the past couple of years, the County has completed a Comprehensive Plan, as well as a Continuity of Operations/Continuity of Government (COOP/COG) plan.  It’s also commissioned a study on Willow Point Nursing Home, B.C. Transit and the County Clerk’s Office.

“These studies have pointed out ways to run these departments more efficiently, increasing revenue potential and decreasing overall costs,” says Preston.

 

Willow Point

The 2016 budget calls for the expansion of the therapy wing at Willow Point Nursing Home and the creation of 7 new positions.

Preston believes the revenue increase from the expansion will far exceed the costs, leading to an overall reduction in taxpayer support for the facility.

“We need to explore every option available to us before any decision is made on the long-term future of Willow Point,” says Preston.  “This is a positive step that will produce reoccurring savings.”

 

B.C. Transit

The County has also commissioned a study of operations at B.C. Transit.

Over the next several months, look for improvements in the delivery of service, improvements that will make service more frequent in some areas and improvements that will save taxpayers money.

These recommendations will lead to an anticipated $441,000 in savings annually.

“We want to implement changes that will provide a higher quality experience for our customers without a fare increase while reducing the cost to the taxpayers,” says Preston.

 

Central Foods

One of the toughest decisions in this year’s budget was to propose turning the Central Foods department over to an outside professional organization that has a long history of providing meals to jails, nursing home and congregate programs.

This decision will affect the employees, but all of those employees will be interviewed by the new company and the County believes the vast majority will be hired by the new company.

This change brings an estimated reoccurring savings of $1.6 million per year.

“This was not a decision that was made lightly,” says Preston.  “However, we feel it was responsible to look for cost savings while still being able to provide good quality food and fresh meals to our elderly, residents of Willow Point and our inmates at the jail.”

The County Legislature now has until November 15th to submit any changes to the budget proposal to the County Executive.

A final budget needs to be adopted by November 27th.

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09/10/2015 - 5:57pm