Horrigan finalizing his last budget

Vince Horrigan

Preparing a tentative spending plan is in the final stages for County Executive Vince Horrigan, who will deliver his last budget to the County Legislature this month.

Preliminary budget plans formulated by department heads were received by the county executive and analyzed for adjustments. Horrigan said there’s more work ahead to finalize his 2018 tentative budget in anticipation for his presentation at the legislature’s Sept. 27 meeting.

Over the last four years, the county executive said he’s pleased and thankful that the county has been able to work toward a stable financial structure. Without privatizing the County Home in February 2014 and bumping the sales tax rate to 8 percent the following year, he said the county could have been in difficult financial straits.

As for budget season, Horrigan said the county has had to consider some major challenges through the years. This year is no different as the drug issue continues to impact county services from probation and the jail to social services and foster care.

“They run across different departments and they continue to be a major challenge, including our clinics for outpatient treatment,” he said. “My goal is to have our services available without a waiting period. When people want help, help needs to be available for them.”

As for infrastructure, Horrigan said he believes county roads, bridges as well as wastewater systems need a strong investment. At the same time, Horrigan said he’d like to keep up with the replacement of aging highway equipment.

“It’s all expensive stuff, but it’s an important priority to me,” he said.

Horrigan said his goal is to have a budget that’s below the 2 percent property tax cap. He said he’s also going to try and keep the tax rate from seeing an increase. That will ultimately be determined when the legislature approves a final spending plan sometime in October.

“Every year, whether it’s health insurance rates, whether it’s staffing, whether it’s programming or the drug problem, new challenges are presented,” he said. “Every year you go through a process of understanding where we are at this moment in time and thinking about the taxpayers, the needs of our seniors and people who are vulnerable, the infrastructure, and the economic development activity that is so critical to us.”

Last year, the county executive presented a 2017 budget that included the addition of correction officers and implementation of a fly-car system. Horrigan’s proposal detailed a tax levy totaling $60.9 million and a property tax rate of $8.49 per $1,000 assessed valuation, a 6-cent cut from the previous year.

Weeks later, the County Legislature enacted a budget with a real property tax levy totaling $60.8 million and a county tax rate of $8.48 per $1,000 assessed valuation. The tax levy within the 2016 enacted budget was $59.6 million and the property tax rate was $8.55 per $1,000 assessed valuation.