During a special meeting Monday night, the Rensselaer County Legislature adopted the 2014 budget. The adoption of the budget caps several months of work by county budget officers, department heads and members of the Executive Department, along with review and input by legislators during the past two months.
In my comments regarding the budget, I characterized the 2014 plan as “tight” and reasonable given the needs of the county and the economic challenges facing our state and our county. The 2014 budget stays under the state tax cap, the third consecutive county budget to stay under the tax cap. Rensselaer County can be proud to have remained under the tax cap each of the three years since the tax cap was implemented.
The 2014 budget also maintains needed and important county services our residents rely on. The budget also maintains the stability that has earned the county a positive bond rating and solid independent fiscal audits. These positive findings have been earned despite the lack of comprehensive reform of state and federal mandates that drive up costs in many areas of county government. Elected county officials from across the state on all sides of the political aisle have been uniform in asking for reform of mandates and for counties to be given more control over how mandated programs are implemented to better control costs.
Legislators are also proud to note the legislative budget for 2014 was reduced, bringing the overall legislative budget to a level comparable to the early 1990s. Reductions in staffing, supply spending and cost-efficiencies from a switch from paper and copying to electronic tablets have helped control costs in the Legislature.
The budget, as initially proposed, included a tax increase of under just one percent. Thanks to a cooperative effort between majority legislators and the Executive, an additional $100,000 in savings were identified and used to lower the amount of the tax increase to a minimal three-quarters of one percent increase. Legislators in the majority and the Executive also reached conceptual agreement on a multi-year project to approve county roads and bridges, including a bridge in Pittstown. We also agreed to leave several open positions unfilled until the savings we targeted is reached.
Overall, I believe the 2014 budget is a good framework for what will hopefully be a prosperous and fulfilling year for Rensselaer County and our residents.