Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy presented the Executive Budget for 2015, a document which demonstrates that the county is on firm fiscal footing. The $597 million budget proposes no tax increase and reflects the administration’s efforts to cut spending and work within the tax cap. This is the second consecutive year the County Executive’s budget proposal has come in under the state-mandated tax cap.
“This budget is a sound one and signifies that we have turned the corner,” said McCoy. “Our fiscal strategy is paying off and we are getting the job done for taxpayers. We have reduced costs and maintained service levels and stayed within the tax cap. The economy is recovering and we are working to rebuild our finances after years of deficits and tax increases.”
The County Executive noted while a significant portion of the budget is driven by state mandates, the administration has been able to stabilize county finances and reduce the funding gaps for the Albany County Nursing Home. In June, the County and unions representing nursing home employees negotiated new contracts. The projected savings that will result from the new contracts, along with additional operational efficiencies, will cut the County’s share of funding. The 2015 budget forecasts savings of $4.2 million, including a $575,000 reduction in overtime costs. The County Executive stressed that these savings will not have a negative impact on quality of care, and will in fact, allow the County to use savings to invest in needed improvements at the facility, so as to improve the quality of care.
“I remain committed to making sure the nursing home provides a safety net for those who need care. I remain hopeful that the Local Development Corporation will be fully operational next year and that this advisory body will work with my office to continue providing quality care for patients. The progress we’ve made working with the unions this year has been significant and will have a lasting impact on operations in the future. ”
The McCoy administration has also settled contracts with various other County bargaining units over the past two years. These contracts included increases in wages for the County workforce, which were partially offset by increases in health care contributions, caps on accrual payouts and other department-specific changes that will benefit county operations. By finalizing these outstanding contracts, the County Executive removed a potential County liability and improved morale in the County workforce.
For the last three years, the county has been working with local governments to develop a shared services plan implemented by the state so that homeowners can receive tax relief through the NYS Property Tax Freeze Credit. The law provides that in the second year of the program – 2015- homeowners will receive the freeze credit for property taxes for any locality that puts forward a plan to save one percent of their tax levies in each of the following three years. The County Executive has convened several meetings with Albany County municipalities to identify ways to share services and provide relief to taxpayers.
Additionally, the county has worked to tighten fiscal controls to increase its fund balance threefold. Since 2012, the administration has added more than $14 million to the fund balance and the county is projected to end 2014 with a fund balance of more than $42 million, the highest level it has been since 2001. That is a stark contrast to 2009 when the county’s fund balance stood at $16.6 million. This will enable the administration to plan for contingencies, maintain a good credit rating and ensure the fiscal stability of the county.
Other indicators that the County has turned the corner include the state’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring Report, which showed an improvement in the county’s fiscal stress rating, which placed the county among 23 localities that moved into a lower stress category. The County’s credit rating also reflects the County’s improved fiscal practices.
The McCoy budget also forecasts a growth in sales tax revenue, pegging the increase at 2.5 percent. Because the County shares its sales tax revenue with localities within the County, this increase means local governments will receive more than $100 million in sales tax revenue in 2015.
“My administration has again delivered a sound and balanced budget. We’ve done it without using reserves or one shots,” McCoy said. “We’ve maintained our service levels while stabilizing our finances and we’ve significantly enhanced our fund balance. It shows that we are on the right track. I look forward to working with the County Legislature to keeping the county moving forward.”