Lower capital costs helps county avoid budget cuts

HUDSON–The Columbia County Board of Supervisors adopted the 2020 County Budget at its December 11, 2019 meeting. The budget calls for spending $159.5 million, of which $44.1 million (28%) is expected to come from the tax levy. The 2020 tax levy will be $786 thousand higher than for 2019, an increase of 1.82%.

That’s slightly less than the nominal “2% cap” (the actual limit varies from year to year) on municipal tax levy increases set by the state.

Table 1 shows the budget by appropriation category. Table 2 compares the 2020 appropriations with those for 2019. Table 3 shows the total tax levy for 2016 through 2020.

Compared with 2019, the biggest change is an almost 19% reduction in capital expenditures. County Controller Ron Caponera, in a December 18 phone interview, attributed this reduction in part to the completion of Columbia-Greene Community College’s expansion project, which required funds for over the past two years.

Of the County’s 23 supervisors, only—Raymond Staats (D-Clermont)–voted against the budget. “We continue to raise taxes and we don’t need to do it,” Mr. Staats explained by phone December 12. “I have voted against the budget for the past three years. Every year our revenue is growing, we’re putting more in our reserves, and we’re saving a lot of money,” with all the cost-saving measures. “It’s time to give the taxpayers a break and stop raising taxes,” he said.

In a statement to the Citizens of Columbia County, dated December 11, 2019, Matt Murell (R-Stockport), chairman of the Board of Supervisors, thanked the supervisors, department heads, Mr. Caponera, Treasurer PJ Keeler, and Human Resources Director Michaele Williams-Riordon for their efforts that “resulted in a final budget that reflects a realistic assessment of the challenges to be faced in 2020 as well as a commitment to fiscal responsibility.

“No program maintained by the County has been eliminated and no services have been cut. No reduction in work force has been planned….”

Mr. Murrell also listed items the county budget supports:

• Columbia-Greene Community College

• “Phase two of the shared services initiative”

• “Continuing the development” of the new emergency services training center for volunteer firefighters and emergency service workers

• “Cancer benefit insurance for qualified firefighters”

• A “comprehensive plan to address the opioid epidemic” in partnership with Greene County. He also noted that Columbia County has received a grant to work with Columbia University to develop “best practices in dealing with the opioid epidemic.”

• “Continued work and investment regarding the Commerce Park sewer project.”

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