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Flood costs hit Schoharie County budget for 2013

Wednesday, October 17, 2012
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— Despite massive damage and property loss from last year’s flooding, Schoharie County won’t need to override the state’s property tax levy increase cap.

A $77.52 million budget proposal released this week by County Treasurer William Cherry calls for a 2.8 percent increase in the tax levy, or an additional $509,923 in total county property taxes, compared with this year’s levy of $18,211,533.

This is a whopping 30 percent increase in expenditures from the $59.6 million 2012 budget, but through a combination of grants and loans as the county rebuilds from Tropical Storm Irene, that spending increase does not fall on county property owners.

There are no job cuts in the proposal, which would boost a part-time social services position to full-time and rehire corrections officers in anticipation of the county jail reopening in 2013.

Tax rate changes in the towns would range from an increase of 2.39 percent to a decrease of 14.87 percent.

The 2.39 percent tax increase in Middleburgh would boost the tax rate from $12.53 per $1,000 in assessed property value to $12.83, resulting in a $30 increase in taxes on a $100,000 house.

The tax rate for Broome — which completed a full revaluation last year — would drop 14.87 percent under the tentative budget, from $10.22 to $8.70 per $1,000. The town’s total assessed value increased once recalculated, Cherry explained, thereby reducing the overall tax rate. But most taxpayers now have a higher assessment, so their savings with the lower tax rate may be limited.

The county borrowed $10 million last year to pay for immediate expenses like road and bridge rebuilding. Next year, $19 million in borrowing is expected: $9 million for the County Office Building and Courthouse and $10 million for the county jail. To cover interest for this borrowing, the tentative 2013 budget would appropriate $265,500.

Though FEMA and New York state are expected to cover the roughly $29 million in post-flood rebuilding costs, Cherry said the county’s up-front borrowing to get contractors working on the projects isn’t covered under disaster aid.

“The truth is it’s a little Catch 22, but you must pay for the construction projects out of your own pocket, up front, then submit reimbursement claims for FEMA reimbursement. The only way you have the money to pay those contractors is to borrow it,” Cherry said.

Total property value in Schoharie County for 2013 is projected at $2.18 billion — a reduction of $57.36 million or 2.56 percent from 2012, some of which can be attributed to losses from Tropical Storm Irene. Assessors earlier this year determined that flood damage reduced 423 properties in value from roughly $39.54 million before the storm to about $9.47 million after.

The tentative budget also reflects the loss of revenue the county typically earns from housing inmates of other counties at it jail, as much as $1.2 million in past years.

“That went a long way towards holding the line or actually reducing taxes,” Cherry said.

If the budget proposal is approved as is, the county’s fund balance — the reserve fund of money unspent in previous budgets — would remain at $6.2 million, a figure unchanged since the start of 2012.

 
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