Madison County braces for cuts, lean 2021 budget

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WAMPSVILLE — Budget season is right around the corner and municipalities across New York are preparing for a lean budget in the wake of COVID-19. Like many regions, Madison County is looking at making tough choices.

“[State aid] cuts are coming,” Madison County Chairman John Becker said at the committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday. “Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said any cuts would be put off until after the election. The cuts are coming. And they’re going to be deep.”

County Treasurer Cindy Edick gave supervisors a rough idea of what the budget was looking like this year and said Madison County may be looking at an increase to the tax levy by around $2 million — an increase of about 5%. This would be an average tax increase of $33 per $100,000 of assessed value.

“We still don’t know what is happening with the state aid cuts,” Edick said. “[We don’t know] what the extent of those cuts would be.”

Becker was less optimistic, saying that when he and other New York state supervisors had phone calls with Cuomo, they were told the 20% cuts were “...just the floor.”

“There are a lot of unknowns for this budget and I want to congratulate, Cindy Edick, [Madison County Administrator] Mark Scimone, and [Lincoln Supervisor] Yvonne Nirelli for putting this [budget] together,” Becker said. “We’re not big on tax increases but I think this year is an extraordinary time. We’re cut right down to the bone.”

“Departments [in Madison County] were asked to try and have their budgets come in flat,” Edick said. “There are no brand-new full-time positions and there is hardly anything in the way of new projects and programs.”

The county Highway Department and the county Sheriff’s Office not only kept their budgets flat but managed to find areas to cut. There is still a hiring freeze in Madison County, with around 23 positions not being funded in the 2021 budget.

“Those salaries alone are around $1 million,” Edick said. “The majority of those positions are in the Highway and Sheriff’s Departments. There are also a few communicators from the 911 Center those positions haven’t been filled and funded for next year.”

These cuts are important, as Madison County is currently looking at an increase in costs they have no control over — like a $1 million increase in social services.

An important part of keeping the budget balanced is keeping the fund balance up. While it may seem tempting to an outsider to balance the budget with the fund balance, Edick said Madison County can’t do that.

“If we budgeted $6.7 million of fund balance to use each year for the next several years and only used one-third of that each year, when we got to 2024 we wouldn’t have anything left for 2025,” she said.

Becker said that while it’s currently a rainy day in Madison County, the fund balance is there “...in case of a tsunami.”

Nelson Supervisor James Cunningham asked if there was anything else that could be cut from the budget to mitigate the 5% tax increase, as to avoid burdening the taxpayer.

Madison County Administrator Mark Scimone said he didn’t know what else could be cut.

“[Madison County Highway Superintendent Joseph Wisiniski] is training mechanics to plow because he can’t fill six positions,” Scimone said. “I don’t know where else we could get cuts.”

“There are so many uncertainties and we’ve relied on state aid because it’s been there,” Edick said. “We knew that there were cuts or grants that may go away but there was funding that would come from elsewhere. This is something I haven’t been through — such deep cuts that are here to stay.”

The rough draft of the budget will be presented by Edick at the first day of annual session on Thursday, Nov. 5 at 2 p.m.

Members of the public that would like to attend this Board meeting via Zoom will need to contact the Madison County Board of Supervisors Office by calling 315-366-2201 or by emailing Emily at emily.burns@madisoncounty.ny.gov

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