SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — The Schenectady County Legislature unanimously approved the 2023 Operating Budget and 2023-2028 Capital Improvement Program tonight. The final budget included four amendments submitted by the Majority Caucus which created a $250 property tax rebate, increased investments in infrastructure and preparedness, and eliminated exam fees for county and local civil service positions.
Schenectady County’s 2023 Operating Budget includes $391,096,612 in appropriations and a zero percent increase in the County’s property tax levy.
“We thank County Manager Fluman for creating a budget that reflects the priorities and values of the Majority Caucus,” said Gary Hughes, Majority Leader of the Schenectady County Legislature. “The amendments we adopted enhance our mission to deliver the vital services our community depends on while providing direct relief to property taxpayers. Record investments in county infrastructure and strategic community projects will benefit residents for years to come.”
“Our efforts to manage resources in a fiscally responsible way have helped the county build a healthy reserve fund to see us thorough challenging fiscal times,” said Anthony Jasenski, Chair of the Schenectady County Legislature. “We are proud to adopt the amended 2023 budget, which holds the line on taxes, protects our fund balance and uses some of our reserves to deliver a $250 property tax rebate to STAR-qualified households. The rebate will provide relief to families who are struggling to make ends meet due to record inflation that continues to drive up grocery, housing, and fuel prices.”
“Our focus on fiscal responsibility has allowed us to make record investments in our community while maintaining a healthy fund balance to weather whatever comes our way,” said Schenectady County Legislator Philip Fields, Chair of the Ways and Means Committee. “We will continue working to make county government more efficient and effective while delivering the services our community needs and deserves.”
The Majority Caucus of the Schenectady County Legislature unveiled a series of amendments to the proposed county budget earlier tonight. The amendments were passed unanimously by the legislature.
$250 Property Tax Rebate
The Majority Caucus introduced an amendment to the 2023 Operating Budget to establish the 2023 Schenectady County Homeowners $250 Rebate Program, which will provide $9 million in relief to approximately 34,500 homeowners. In the amendment the Legislature directs the County Manager to take the steps necessary, including requesting state authorization, to establish the rebate program using the same eligibility requirements for New York State’s Basic, Enhanced, and Credit STAR programs.
Increasing Access to Critical Health Services
Ellis Dental Care discontinued its services and residency program in June of 2021, shifting the care of their 9,000 dental patients, mostly underserved children and adults, to Hometown Health Centers. This nearly doubled their patient count from 10,000 to over 19,000, creating a need for additional space to meet the increased demand for care. Hometown purchased the former Rite Aid building at the corner of State Street and Brandywine Avenue last year with a plan to restore the building and combine their two smaller offices into one modern dental practice.
The Majority Caucus introduced an amendment to the 2023-2028 Capital Improvement Program budget to provide $4 million in ARPA funds to Hometown to bridge the gap between the funding it has secured and the cost of making the new facility operational. The total project cost, including the price of the property, is estimated to be $7.4 million. Hometown has also indicated that they are willing to explore an expansion of mental health services in the space that will be freed up in their main facility once the dental clinic project in complete, potentially increasing access to another vital service in our community. Hometown provides services to patients regardless of their insurance status or their ability to pay and offers a sliding fee scale based on income and family size.
Eliminating Barriers to Public Employment
Many municipal positions in New York State require applicants to take a civil service test. The Majority Caucus put forth an amendment to the 2023 Operating Budget to establish a one-year pilot program that would eliminate the fees charged to individuals seeking to take civil service exams for Schenectady County and local municipal positions. Eliminating the fees would have two benefits: eliminate a barrier for low-income job seekers and make it easier to recruit candidates to take the exams for civil service positions available at the county and local municipalities.
Preparing for the Future
The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the fact that county government provides many of the essential services residents depend on during times of crisis, including public health, housing, emergency management, and mental health services. The Majority Caucus submitted a 2023 Operating Budget amendment directing the County Manager to strengthen the county’s Pandemic Stockpile to ensure that staff will have the tools they need to serve residents in the event of a crisis. This includes personal protective equipment, sanitizer, cleaning supplies, syringes, and other materials deemed necessary to keep county employees safe by the directors of Public Health Services and Emergency Management.
Additional Budget Highlights
Holding the Line on Property Taxes
The budgeted property tax levy of $71,086,465, represents a zero percent increase from the 2022 Adopted Operating Budget. Since 2017, the county property tax levy has remained flat, saving
taxpayers $42 million over the same period, had the levy increased by the maximum allowed under the State Property Tax Cap.
Changes in the tax levy
County government budgets in New York State remain dominated by state and federally mandated programs. Over 47 percent of the property tax levy is allocated to the County’s share of Medicaid. Other mandated costs include Temporary Assistance (TANF & SafetyNet), Child Welfare, Community College chargebacks, Early Intervention, Preschool Education, Indigent Defense, Probation, Youth Detention, Foster Care, and Public Health.
Investing in Infrastructure
The $49 million 2023-2028 Capital Improvement Program represents a historic investment in the County’s buildings and infrastructure. This includes over $41 million for capital projects in 2023, including over $1.7 million in library projects, over $4.2 million for SUNY Schenectady, and $4.8 million in airport upgrades.
The 2023 capital budget includes $18.5 million in transportation appropriations to fund road and bridge infrastructure improvements, including approximately 60 miles of preventative maintenance and 20 miles of surface treatments or “new roads”. Other projects planned for completion in 2023 include Rosendale Road/Old River Road Intersection Improvement Project, Sanders Road Culvert Replacement Project, the Old River Road Culvert Replacement Project and a Planning Environmental Linkage (PEL) Study to re-route the I-890 Exit 4C interchange at Washington Avenue and State Street.
Providing Services to the Community
The budget provides for the continuation of services residents rely on, including:
• Increasing the County’s contribution to SUNY Schenectady by two percent and investing over $4.2 million in capital projects and equipment for a historic investment totaling over $9 million for the college;
• Working with local health care providers, law enforcement, first responders, local coalitions, and community partners to provide access to opioid treatment, address systems gaps and implement new strategies to impact heroin and opioid use, including complete treatment programs, Narcan trainings and community housing and day hab supports;
• Senior services, including the provision of home-delivered and congregate meals, at-home personal care services, medical transportation services and a host of opportunities for educational and social gatherings; and
• The specialized Targeted Street Crime Unit and Sheriff’s Drug Task Force.