AUBURN | Cayuga County Administrator Tom Squires is proposing a 2013 budget with 2 percent increase in the overall property tax levy.
Squires shared his suggested spending plan with county legislators at a special meeting on Thursday night. In his proposal, county residents could see a tax levy increase that would be nearly half of the actual allowable increase of 3.98 percent under the state property tax cap law.
"Tonight my goal is to present what our overall strategy is," Squires said. "And to give you a better sense of my recommendations for next year's budget."
Total expenses under Squires' plan would be about $146.99 million — or 3.4 percent higher than the 2012 budget, Squires said. The budget proposal reduces the county payroll by five full-time and three part-time positions, but those would come from posts that are currently vacant, so no layoffs would be needed.
Squires proposes using $4 million from the county's fund balance to close the gap between expenses and project revenues. The 2012 adopted budget called for $7.5 million to come from the fund balance. The county projects it would be left with a $13.7 million fund balance at the end of 2013, which would equate to a little more than 11 percent of the county's gross general fund revenues. The Legislature has adopted a policy to keep that fund balance between 10 and 15 percent.
Factors driving the increase in overall spending include additional state-mandated spending on the local share of Medicaid of $545,000 over the last year and increased state retirement payments of $550,000. Squires is also proposing a $900,000 investment in aging highway equipment and state mandated Department of Social Services costs are up nearly $270,000.
Legislators listened during the general meeting and few questions were raised. Many legislators believed the proposal was well done and leaves enough room for them to dive into in the coming weeks.
Legislator Joseph Runkle said he was pleased with Thursday's meeting.
"I was impressed with what Tom did tonight and his use of the fund balance and also that he's suggested only a 2 percent increase," Runkle said. "I'm very interested in seeing the county do well this next year but also in years to come and I think that we as legislators have an obligation to see that that happens."
Squires' proposal will now be examined by county legislators over the next few weeks, with plans for a vote on a final budget on Dec. 13.