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Steuben County passes 2021 budget

Property owners looking at a drop in the average tax rate of 14 cents per $1,000 from $8.07 this year down to $7.93 in 2021

Staff reports
Steuben County legislators Monday adopted the 2021 county budget of $194 million, which includes a slight increase in the $51 million tax levy, with property owners looking at a drop in the average tax rate of 14 cents per $1,000 from $8.07 this year down to $7.93 in 2021.

BATH – The newly adopted 2021 Steuben County budget of $194 million includes a slight increase in the $51 million tax levy, with property owners looking at a drop in the average tax rate of 14 cents per $1,000 from $8.07 this year down to $7.93 in 2021.

The budget was adopted Monday during a special session of the county Legislature.

Steuben’s tax levy is the amount property owners pay for county operations, with each town’s levy determined by a complex equalization rate set by the state.

Steuben’s 2021 budget also comes in under the state cap, avoiding penalties set by the state.

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.

County Legislature Chairman Scott VanEtten, R-Caton said the credit for the streamlined budget should go to county officers in the management, finance, legal and personnel departments.

“These guys are professionals that started building the budget from the ground up under severe constraints,” VanEtten said. “They made all the difference. The budget they created was flexible and focused on the goal of remaining financially sound and staying well under the tax cap. This budget will fund all the critical departments or organizations that serve the residents and most importantly we did not have to reduce our workforce through layoffs.”

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 road projects have been completed ahead of schedule so these delays will not have a significant impact upon the traveling public.
  • 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.