Dusten Rader/For The Recorder
The Fulton County Budget Review Committee met Thursday in the Board of Supervisors Chambers at the Fulton County Office Building in Johnstown.


For The Recorder

JOHNSTOWN — The Budget Review Committee spent more than four hours on Thursday making tough choices on what to shave from the 2018 Fulton County Budget to reduce the tax levy impact.

The committee met in the Board of Supervisors Chambers at the Fulton County Office Building in Johnstown for the second budget review meeting in a series set to run through October.

During the meeting, the committee delved into a 250-page budget worksheet report that details the 2018 Tentative Budget. Going line by line, page by page, the committee tackled 120 pages before scheduling another meeting for Wednesday, Oct. 11, at 10 a.m.

Before the meeting was adjourned, Budget Director and County Auditor Alice Kuntzsch noted that although the committee has made some progress toward reaching the goal of getting the budget under the tax cap, the struggle is far from over.

“We made a number of changes, but we have a long, long way to go,” Kuntzsch said.

Committee Member John Callery mirrored the sentiment, saying the meeting produced many questions and not enough cuts. As a result, the presence of three department heads were requested to attend the next meeting: Commissioner of Social Services Sheryda Cooper, Superintendent of Highways and Facilities Mark Yost, and Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino.

During the Sept. 28 meeting, Kuntzsch said Fulton County Treasurer Terry Blodgett provided the committee with the current property tax cap of $28,246,331, which includes a carryover of $423,103 from 2017.

“We’ve already passed a resolution that would allow us to go over the tax cap, but our idea is to always be under the tax cap,” Kuntzsch had said.

Administrative Officer and Clerk of the Board Jon Stead had previously said the county needs to find about $7 million to trim in order to stay under the cap.

Stead pointed out during the Sept. 28 meeting that the margin between the 2017 and 2018 tax caps is an important number.

“That comes out to $1,016,596,” Stead said. “You can increase it that amount and still stay under the tax cap. Last year I think it was between $600,000 and $700,000 — you should be happy. But, it will still be a challenge.”

Stead also said during the Sept. 28 meeting that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s approval of the Raise the Age mandate would require approximately $700,000. The mandate raises the age of criminal responsibility in the state to 18 years old. Stead said the state will reimburse all costs related to the requirements, except for municipalities that do not stay under the tax cap.

Stead noted during the Oct. 5 meeting that using fund balance to balance the budget is considered an indicator of increasing stress on the county.

“What it means for everybody sitting here is that it’s time to start looking strongly to make corrections,” Stead said. “… You can’t rely on fund balance forever.”

During the Sept. 28 meeting, committee members were also presented with a historical overview of adopted budgets, which compares 2011-17.

The overview reveals that the county has adopted budgets ranging from $85 million in 2014 to $100 million in 2011. In 2017, the adopted budget was $97,336,789 with a tax levy of $27,229,735.

The committee is expected to finalize the 2018 Tentative Budget and file it with the Board of Supervisors by Nov. 13. A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 27.