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Franklin County works to close $715,000 budget gap

One week left before filing deadline

MALONE — With one week to go before Franklin County is required by law to file a tentative budget for the coming year, county officials are scrambling to close a $715,000 gap between anticipated revenues and expenses.

“I am confident we will be able to bridge this gap,” county Manager Donna Kissane told members of the county Legislature’s Finance Committee on Thursday.

As of Thursday, anticipated revenues for 2021 are approximately $102.7 million, while expenses are $103.4 million, Kissane said. Both totals represent decreases from the current year’s budget, when revenues were roughly $103.6 million and expenses just under $105 million, she noted.

The 2021 spending plan currently calls for a tax levy of roughly $17.66 million, an increase of 1.32% over the current year, county Treasurer Fran Perry said. The county’s state-mandated tax cap allows for a levy increase of 1.97%, she said.

Legislator Paul Maroun, R-Tupper Lake, asked if the county could increase the levy slightly to help close the gap, but Perry said she hopes to maintain the cushion to help the county in future years.

Coming in below the tax cap will give the county more room to maneuver in 2022, as the state uses how a municipality does with its cap figure in one year as part of the calculations for the next year, Perry said.

The county’s budget preparations are complicated by the uncertainty surrounding state aid, Kissane noted. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said local governments should be prepared for cuts of up to 20% in state aid as the state struggles to address its own multi-billion-shortfall, but those reductions have not yet fully take place, Kissane said.

With the tentative budget due on Oct. 1, last-minute reductions could make the planning process even more difficult than it is now, she said.

While state cuts could have a huge negative effect on the budget, the county has benefited from a state audit that found it had been significantly undercompensated — a finding that turned a potential $300,000 shortfall into a roughly $61,000 gain. However, Kissane noted that August’s sales tax revenues were down about 7.4% from the same period last year, and she expressed concerns about receipts during the final four months of the year.

Kissane said she has reduced the anticipated sales tax revenues by about $250,000 in the upcoming budget, to $23.75 million. “I think that’s a good calculation,” she said.

Franklin County’s sales tax figures, while down a little, are better than those of many other counties in the state, which are “very much in the red,” Perry said.

Legislature Chairman Don Dabiew, D-Bombay, cautioned that while county leaders are working diligently to craft a budget that protects as many services as possible, some programs could feel a financial pinch.

“There is going to be some effects on programs in this budget,” Dabiew said. “We don’t have a choice.”

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