Will this be the 11th year of consecutive tax rate drops for the county?
From Steuben County,
BATH – Steuben County property owners face a drop in the average tax rate of $0.55 per $1,000 full assessed value in 2024 if the county Legislature adopts their proposed budget of $246 million following a public hearing set for 11:30 am on Nov. 27.
The proposed 2024 average tax rate of 6.80 per $1,000 full assessed value is down from the $7.35 per $1,000 in 2023. It is associated with a tentative tax levy of $52.8 million, a 1 percent increase compared to the tax levy of $52.3 million in 2023.
The decline in the average tax rate marks the 11th straight year the rate has dropped for Steuben property owners while state mandates continue to increase Steuben’s overall costs.
County Manager and Budget Officer Jack Wheeler told legislators recently the increase in county spending is largely due to spikes in the cost of health insurance, retirement and mounting pressure in state mandated services.
The county views health insurance as a valuable incentive during the sluggish employment market in the region while retirement benefits are driven by the state, Wheeler said, during his formal presentation to the county Legislature.
State enforced programs remain the most significant driver to county costs, with just nine state mandates costing taxpayers $51.4 million or 97.4 percent of the county levy. Steuben also pays community colleges $3.7 million annually, pushing taxpayers costs up to more than 104 percent.
Wheeler warned legislators the state’s grab of federal FMAP funds designated for the counties’ use not only denies Steuben needed funds, it may signal deeper issues in the near future.
“With the fiscal outlook New York State is facing, they may continue to pass additional costs to counties to help balance their budget,” Wheeler said. “We must keep a watchful eye towards Albany in 2024 and beyond.”
Offsetting the significant increases in programs such as transportation, public safety and assigned counsel are the county’s solid fund balance, interest earnings and a conservative estimate of the county’s overall growth in sales tax revenues in 2024.
One notable – and long anticipated — program expected next year is a supplemental Emergency Medical Services corps to provide back-up medical response in underserved communities at a cost of $1.2 million.
“The 2024 budget provides the services that are mandated upon you all and upon us,” Wheeler told county legislators. “But also because of the way that you have taken your long-term fiscal strategy you have been able to appropriate revenue to offset these increases and a slight increase in the levy but overall, the 11th straight year of an average tax rate reduction.”