LOCKPORT – Niagara County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz filed a tentative 2013 county budget Thursday that raises the tax levy by 3.7 percent while cutting 40 jobs, most of them vacant positions.
“It’s a fantastic budget. I think it’s a balanced one,” Glatz said, but legislators didn’t necessarily agree.
Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport, said his caucus will work to reduce the tax increase, although he called the proposal “a good starting point.”
Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, said the Democrats’ goal would be to eliminate any tax increase.
The budget does call for spending $10 million of the county’s $27.3 million surplus, and projects a $2.5 million increase in sales tax receipts.
Although the state has a 2 percent property tax cap, there are several exceptions to it. Budget Director Daniel R. Huntington said Niagara County’s “real” tax cap for 2013 is 5.08 percent.
That’s because one of the situations that causes an exception is the loss of income from payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, granted by industrial development agencies.
The revised PILOT approved earlier this year for the former AES Corp. power plant in Somerset cost the county $2 million in revenue for 2013, so its tax cap is increased by that much, Huntington said.
The job cuts include 35 full-time positions, four part-timers and one seasonal job.
Fourteen of the full-time positions are currently filled. All are being eliminated because of privatization of nonmandated programs: eight at the jail through a contract for medical and mental health services for inmates, and six at the Health Department through the sale of the county’s home care program for seniors to Catholic Health System.
The vacant posts being eliminated include 12 in the Health Department, a total which includes four per-diem nurse positions. The department saw many nurses leave ahead of the privatization of home care, approved by the state Health Department Nov. 1.
Other cuts of vacant positions include three jobs each at Public Works and Social Services, and one each in the Sheriff’s Office, the Refuse Disposal District and the Sewer District.
Two part-time jobs are being eliminated at the Office for the Aging and one each at Health and Emergency Services, the latter being a deputy fire coordinator’s post. A seasonal intern job in Information Technology also is being cut.
The proposed budget totals $321.9 million, an increase of nearly $5.4 million or 1.7 percent in spending over this year.
However, that figure includes almost $45.9 million in “shared sales tax” that the county collects and passes on to the cities, towns and villages. The county is required to include that in the budget total. Leaving that out, the spending figure is $276 million, an increase of $3.5 million, or 1.3 percent.
Glatz and Huntington said they cut significantly in nonmandated programs. The nine major programs mandated but unfunded by Albany and Washington total $77.7 million in net county costs. That would have equaled a 4.8 percent increase in the tax levy without countervailing cutbacks in other areas, Huntington said.
The largest of all is Medicaid, rising $1.7 million, to a total of $47.2 million.