$12M Gap Already Down To $7-8M,
Bliss Says As Deliberations Ensue
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Saying he has no “black magic” to fix it, County Treasurer Allen Ruffles has advised the county Board of Representatives it is facing a $12 million gap in the upcoming 2020 budget.
“I hear every year that Dan (Ruffles predecessor, Dan Crowell) used to work his ‘black magic,’ and always reduced the budget somehow last second,” said Ruffles in an email from the Horn of Africa, where he is on assignment with the Army Reserve. “There is no magic: We will be using the fund balance to help offset this gap.”
However, county board Chairman David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, said a budget working group has already reduced that to $7-8 million, and he’s aiming to produce a budget that will be under the 2 percent state-mandated budget cap.
The $12 million gap is “about normal,” Bliss said, recalling that last year’s initial pass – department heads estimates of what they would like – was $13 million.
According to Ruffles email, which was provided to www.AllOTSEGO.com, total prospective appropriations for 2020 are slightly more than $106 million. Total revenues, including a $12 million addition allowed under the state-mandated 2 percent budget cap, are slightly under $96 million.
“So we are currently looking at $10.5 million that needs to be reduced,” Ruffles reported.
And that doesn’t include additional county rep budget requests: The prospective county administrator, $118,999; manager raises of 2 percent, $117,000; new positions, $850,000, and additional leased vehicles, $190,000.
“Taking into account these things,” Ruffles wrote, “we’re now looking at a gap of close to $12 million.”
He added, “Last year, we used just over $6 million in fund balance” – surplus – “to offset. This year we will not be able to appropriate that much as the closing of the Manor caused our fund balance to take a $2 million hit that wasn’t expected.”
Bliss acknowledged the county reps are facing challenges, given cuts in state AIM aid that Albany this year is requiring counties to cover out of sales-tax revenues. The cuts in AIM aid are about the same as anticipated revenue increases, he said.
He also pointed out that Otsego County’s per capita property-tax levy continues to be the lowest in the state. That’s a budget challenge, because the 2 percent cap is being applying to a smaller amount than a county that is taxing twice as much per capita, he said.
The county board working group – it is made up of the Administration Committee, plus Andrew Marietta, D-Cooperstown/Town of Otsego – will have a better idea of the challenges in a couple of weeks, when the state will report sales-tax revenues for July and August, which include that generated during Mariano Rivera’s well-attended Hall of Fame Induction.
The county board will issue its proposed budget in mid-November, take it to public hearing in early December, then adopt the spending plan before the New Year begins.