ONEIDA — Oneida City Supervisor John Reinhardt, Chairman of Madison County’s Finance, Ways and Means Committee, recently outlined some of the county’s current financial goals for the city’s Common Council. Those goals included the construction on the county courthouse, an update on state mandate negotiations and request for new revenue sharing with the county’s department of motor vehicles.
The 100-year-old county courthouse in Wampsville will be rebuilt to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA is a federal law passed in 1991 that requires all public buildings to be handicapped accessible.
The new design will include wheelchair ramps and will make improved use of courtroom space. It will also include elevators that will assist the disabled in reaching the top floor, and keep criminal suspects separate from courthouse workers and other visitors.
“These elevators will make the courthouse safer,” Reinhardt said. “We don’t want courthouse visitors stuck on an elevator with suspects.”
After the design is completed the work will begin this coming May and will cost approximately $19.7 million. That total includes planning, construction, and rental costs when law and court offices relocate during the construction. Repairs are estimated to take up to two-and-a-half years to complete, with a projected completion date set for the later part of 2020. The bond payment schedule is being finalized by the board.
During renovations, courtrooms and judges’ chambers will be located at the former Oneida Limited sales offices on Kenwood Drive in Oneida.
The county is seeking a larger share of profits from the state for its department of motor vehicle operations. The county produces approximately one million dollars in revenue through vehicle registrations and drivers’ license fees each year. Madison County receives 12.7 percent of that and wants to increase that to 25 percent. The remaining 75 percent would go to the state.
“We’re doing all the work, and the state is getting more then we are,” Reinhardt said.
The county has asked the New York State Association of Counties with help in reducing payments to the state for mandated payments. These payments are services that the state mandates the counties pay for. The total income from these payments from New York’s 62 counties is approximately $12 billion.
Its goal is to reduce these payments, which require, or mandate, counties to reimburse the state for certain programs such as Medicaid. The county prefers to direct its budget towards immediate needs, including infrastructure repair.
“Each year we’ve started off behind the eight-ball,” Reinhardt said. The county formally declared this past May as “Mayday for Mandate Relief” to press the issue with state Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the state legislature. The declaration was meant to show the deleterious effects mandated payments have on county-level spending.
State-mandated and fixed employee costs can consume over 80 percent of a county’s yearly budget. High on the list are Medicaid payments, which cost over $11 million, or nearly 40 percent, of Madison County’s 2016 budget. Nearly 90 percent of Madison County’s yearly budget goes towards state-mandated programs, which besides Medicaid include public assistance, child welfare, preschool education, legal defense for those unable to procure a lawyer, early intervention, youth detention and pension for county retirees.
In 2016 Madison County’s sales tax revenue increased by 1.2 percent. Reinhardt said one percent equals $319,000.