County holds line on tax levy

Proposed $457M spending plan includes no property tax hike for ninth straight year

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UTICA — In a roughly 15-minute-long Tuesday morning presentation, Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. outlined the details of his proposed $457 million 2022 budget for the county’s Board of Legislators.

Picente said the his spending plan has multiple revenue streams, but, “...for the ninth year in a row” one of them, the property tax levy for the county’s property owners, will remain unchanged – by design.

“Oneida County’s $457 million proposed budget does not raise the property tax levy,” Picente said. “…Zero because we control discretionary spending.
Zero because we create better efficiencies. Zero because of unique revenue sources like the Oneida Nation agreement. Zero because when the pandemic hit we took strong immediate action.”

Among financial actions taken in the wake of the now ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Picente said that there was an increase in sales tax collected this year.

He explained, “The budgeting of sales tax was a challenge for 2022, as we had to take into account new trends and loss of revenue in 2020. We benefited from the inclusion of revenue from internet sales and we adjusted an increase from the 2019 budget through the 2022 budget. With revenue trending higher, we have budgeted $114 million in sales tax for 2022.”

Capital plan 2022 status

In the proposed budget, for 2022, Oneida County’s work goal for the six-year capital plan (which ultimately stretches into 2027) would total $29 million and the county will be able to retire $19 million in debt.

One budget frustration in crafting the plan Picente spoke to centered on a parking garage project for Utica’s now under construction Wynn Hospital which is part of the Mohawk Valley Health System.

“... We had an agreement between us, the City of Utica and (Mohawk Valley Health System). The city, which has received $64 million in federal recovery money, despite being closed for the majority of the pandemic, has backed out of that agreement and will not participate in the largest and most significant project in the City of Utica in our lifetime.

The county executive continued, “The garage will be built. We have secured $10 million in state funding and we will use American Rescue Act money to bring down the bonding cost. This will save the county millions in bonding expenses over time.”

After the address, Picente expressed to reporters he feels that using available federal money to make community level improvements should be a shared goal amongst municipalities.

Picente added that there are other projects in the capital plan that include upgrades for the Mohawk Valley Community College campus, improvements to the county office building, flood mitigation and more money for roads and bridges.

Speaking to expenses in the budget relating to COVID-19 community services in addition to routine public services the county maintains, Picente said that the county government has grown since the beginning of the pandemic in terms of what it offers the public as well as staffing.

In addition, the county has been able to tap into newly available state and federal funding in order to get projects completed.

This has contributed to growth for the county.

“We don’t grow when things are easy,” Picente said, “We grow when we face challenges.”

• The first public hearing for the budget proposal will be held at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 7, in the county legislature chambers on the 10th floor of the Oneida County Office Building in Utica.

• The Board of Legislators will vote on the county executive’s 2022 budget proposal at its meeting on Nov. 10.

• To see the full 2022 Budget Proposal: https://bit.ly/3FnQZKe

• To read the county executive’s 2022 budget address: https://bit.ly/3oAYVSq

• To see a video of Tuesday’s budget presentation, visit: https://bit.ly/2YpwiMY

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