During its Wednesday, November 18 regular session the Greene County Legislature voted to adopt a $112.6 million budget for the 2021 Fiscal Year. The amount of revenue to be raised by tax levy will not increase from 2020, and nine of the county’s 14 towns are expected to see a decrease in their property taxes.
“Our legislators and county leaders have done an excellent job holding the line on expenses and continuing to provide essential services during a quite challenging time,” says Legislature Chair Patrick Linger (District 5 – New Baltimore). “We are anticipating a 20% cut in state funding, and so we are thankful that the fiscal stewardship of 10 years of sales tax revenue surpluses has contributed to a healthy reserve fund to help us through.”
Indeed, Greene County’s established a Special Sales Tax Reserve Fund in 2017 to weather financial storms, like the 2008 Great Recession when it faced a $3 million deficit. Over the following years, the sales tax reserve fund has grown to $7.5 million, of which only $2.5 million will be applied to the 2021 budget.
“We’ve delivered a very conservative budget to provide excellent value to our taxpayers”, notes County Administrator Shaun Groden. “All new jail expenses are included in the 2021 budget”.
The foresight of the Legislature, County Administrator, and Greene County Treasurer Peter Markou to create a sales tax reserve fund also played a significant role in improving the county’s bond rating for capital investment projects.
Greene County’s fiscal responsibility under Markou is evidenced in a 2019 review by Moody’s Investors Services, who raised our rating from AA3 to AA2 – placing us among only eight non-NYC counties with a rating of AA2 or higher. This improved rating resulted in the county’s ability to attract an investment of $39 million from Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. (at only 2.49% interest) to fund the new Greene County Jail (effectively saving the taxpayers millions of dollars).
Sales-tax revenue in 2020 is about 3% higher than this time last year and the county is on track to collect the $32.2 million projected for 2020. Sales tax remains the county’s top revenue generator and is projected to increase by $500,000 in 2021 to $32.7 million.
A US Supreme Court decision in June 2019 requires internet sales tax to be collected in the location that the item is shipped to, not where it is shipped from. Internet sales in Greene County have gone from 15th to 4th in overall revenue ranking during the past 7 months.
New NYS holdbacks of county sales tax revenue to fund AIM (Aid and Incentives for Municipalities) and the Distressed Hospital Fund together accounted for a $600,000 combined decrease in monies to the county due to State Mandates. Greene County is projected to collect $1.1 million more than in 2020, but NYS will divert $600,000 to these programs before payment gets to Greene County, effectively leaving $500,000 added to the budget.