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Public hearing on Steuben County's 2021 budget Monday

The average tax rate is expected to drop 14 cents per $1,000 from $8.07 in 2020 down to $7.93 next year if the budget is adopted

Staff reports
A public hearing on the proposed 2021 Steuben County Budget, now pegged at $194 million, is set for 11:30 a.m. Monday in the county Annex, 20 E Morris St., Bath.

BATH – A public hearing on the proposed 2021 Steuben County Budget, now pegged at $194 million, is set for 11:30 a.m. Monday in the county Annex, 20 E Morris St., Bath.

If passed by county legislators after the public hearing, the plan comes in well below the state’s mandated tax cap, with an increase of just under 1 percent increase, up roughly $500,000 in the county’s proposed levy of $51 million. The average tax rate is expected to drop 14 cents per $1,000 from $8.07 in 2020 down to $7.93 next year if the budget is adopted.

The budget is the result of a determined effort by county leaders to limit the impact of the pandemic COVID-19 on businesses, the local economy and residents’ normal lives during the current 8-month crisis and next year. 

Key points in the proposed 2021 budget include:

  • Early retirements: The early retirement of 44 county employees will cut costs by approximately $500,000.
  • Public Works: A cut of nearly $900,000 in CHIPS funding from New York State and departmental cuts amounting to nearly $600,000 next will reduce construction projects, boost maintenance and delay some bridge work until 2022. County Public Works officials say the cuts will not affect public safety.
  • Public Safety: The Sheriff’s Department’s proposed 2021 budget is up 12 percent, with Jail costs expected to increase nearly 7 percent. Increases also include COVID-19-related checks on compliance and patient welfare by deputies and the cancellation of a contract for school resource officers by BOCES.
  • Social Services: Costs will be up by nearly $1 million next year, driven by the Safety Net program, which forces Steuben to pay 79 percent of the state entitlement program. All told, state-mandated services consume 92 percent of the tax levy, forcing property owners to pick up costs.
  • Sales Tax: COVID-19 drove sales tax revenues down 4 percent compared to 2019 receipts. Sales tax revenues next year are budgeted to remain flat, at $31.2 million.

County Manager/Budget Officer Jack Wheeler warned a difficult year may be followed by significant risks in 2021.

Steuben County manager Jack Wheeler.

“The Legislature, department heads, and staff have done a tremendous job aiding in the development of a responsible budget in very difficult times,” said Wheeler. “We anticipate cuts of up to 20 percent, or $4 million, in state aid and will closely monitor that. Sales tax remains uncertain for the coming year as well. However, the county is prepared to respond as needed to manage our finances, as we’ve done in a turbulent 2020.”