MALONE — Franklin County legislators voted Thursday to pass the county’s proposed $103,618,760 budget.
The budget will raise taxes on properties assessed at full value by 3.4 cents per $1,000 taxable value, according to County Treasurer Fran Perry.
Legislators held a public hearing on the proposed spending plan Oct. 29.
According to Perry, the county’s total appropriations, or spending, are decreasing by $1,379,898.
The county’s revenues, excluding the tax levy, are decreasing by $449,026, Perry said.
This decrease contributes to the county’s tax increase despite the spending reduction, with the decrease in revenues largely the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to reduce state aid to local governments by 20% in many aid categories in an effort to deal with the state’s own projected multibillion revenue shortfall.
The amount of money the county will raise through property taxes, known as the tax levy, will increase from the current $17.4 million to $17,660,000, according to budget documents.
This marks an increase of approximately 1.49%.
According to County Manager Donna Kissane, this year’s budget process was similar to past years in some ways, such as starting in May and tracking department budgets back five years in order to make informed decisions for this year’s proposals, but differed in the way the county strived to be efficient in anticipation of the drop off in revenue.
“We tried to implement strategies to become more efficient,” Kissane said.
Kissane pointed to the consolidation of meal preparation for the county’s Meals on Wheels program through the centralization of the program’s kitchens as one area where the county was able to find savings, while ensuring there was no service disruption for senior citizens who utilize the program.
Meals that had previously been prepared in Fort Covington or St. Regis Falls would be prepared in Brushton and delivered to those two locations, according to Kissane.
“We will still deliver the meals to the other centers,” Kissane said.
Representatives from the boards of the St. Regis Falls and Fort Covington’s adult centers were in attendance at the legislature’s meeting Thursday morning, raising concerns with the proposal to distribute meals from Brushton to their adult centers, submitting a proposal of their own for the county to consider.
According to Legislature Chairman Don Dabiew, D-Bombay, he wanted to hear from both sides before proceeding.
“We need to see all sides of it,” Dabiew said, stating he would like to discuss the proposals with department heads.
Andrea Dumas, R-Malone, who represents District 3 of the county legislature, said the needs of the seniors will still be met.
“We truly have the seniors at the top of the list, we are not closing the centers, the centers are staying open but right now with COVID nobody is in the centers. I think it is a budgetary matter right now, cooking in fewer spots with the funding issues we have around the state,” Dumas said.
According to Kissane, the county legislature could approve the proposed budget and still consider the new proposal from St. Regis Falls and Fort Covington because it would not require additional funding.
“While the board will most likely adopt the budget today, I didn’t feel like your proposal impacted that budget because, it works in with what we funded it for anyhow, so we can certainly look at that and have more discussions around it moving forward,” Kissane said.
Other cost saving measures in this year’s budget included the combination of a secretary position to serve both the board of legislators and the county manager’s office.
“We tried to find reductions in staff while avoiding layoffs,” Kissane said, adding the county looked at current vacancies and determined what the county could get by without, in addition to not replacing some positions where occupants will be retiring.
An increase in reliance on grants to finance Department of Social Services programs and moving expenses related to the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear from the general fund, where the money comes from property taxes, to the tourism promotion fund, which is financed through the county’s occupancy tax on short-term rentals were additional ways the county found savings, according to Kissane.