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|Monday, May 23, 2020||
Griffo: New Budget Report Shows County
Oneida County Executive Joseph A. Griffo today released the county’s first-ever Quarterly Progress Report, which covers the first quarter of the county’s 2005 fiscal year and reports that the budget appears to be on track to meet projections.
“The overall picture is encouraging,” Griffo said. “The challenge with a budget is not just to adopt it, but adjust to changing times through constant monitoring. I requested this report as a snapshot to help the public and legislators understand how the year is going so that we can discuss areas where spending may be too high, and take necessary actions if they are within our control. ”
Griffo initiated the Quarterly Progress Report as part of his commitment to provide greater information about the county’s fiscal status throughout the course of the year, and respond to requests from county legislators for information and analysis about major budget areas. The report was compiled by Budget Director Thomas Keeler.
“Fiscal oversight of county budgeting should be a very wide-open process and an on-going one, so that the Board of Legislators and the people of Oneida County understand the challenges we face and the actions we take in response,” Griffo said.
Griffo summarized key areas of the report:
Medicaid: At $63 million, Medicaid is a major chunk of the county budget, and one that is beyond county control. Average weekly Medicaid payments are up about 5% over 2005, so far well below the projected increase of about 13%
Family Assistance: While Medicaid dropped, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) costs rose by about 15%. Most county TANF costs are determined by state rules and regulations.
“What concerns me about this picture is whether we have the scenario that the state is helping us in terms of lowering the burden on Medicaid and then increasing our TANF costs with the other hand,” Griffo said. “If that is the case, I will fight the state to protect the people of Oneida County. The goal of our Medicaid reform package must be to lower costs, not move the money around. We are getting cost breakdowns and will be working with the state to highlight and address our concerns. The reduction in Medicaid, which is due to a slower increase in new cases, can be an important trend to lower our costs.”
Revenue: Property tax collections are coming in as projected. Sales tax looks to be on target for the first quarter. It should be noted the 1.5% increase in the sales tax was only in effect for one month of the quarter and that because some businesses pay tax to the state quarterly instead of monthly, and will not in fact pay quarterly bills until late June, the figure is incomplete. “Using one month to measure the tax’s impact on our revenue is not a good gauge,” Griffo said. “This report does not provide any data for us to change course. We will keep monitoring the tax and our overall retail environment.”
County staffing: The county had 96 positions left vacant at the end of March. Since January, 28 positions have been filled – 10 in the Sheriff’s Department, 16 through departments overseen by the County Executive, and 1 in the District Attorney’s Office. “Because we have an obligation to deliver the services that the people of Oneida County require – and which they have said they want – we cannot leave all vacancies unfilled,” Griffo said. “Restrictive hiring means that we fill positions when there is a gain to the county, whether fiscally or through greater efficiency.”
E-Bay: Griffo noted that the Purchasing Department’s use of e-Bay to auction surplus items has netted $45,000 -- $25,000 more than budgeted for the entire year. “The biggest gain through this program is that we do not pay disposal costs for old equipment that someone else buys,” Griffo said. “Whatever we are able to make will help our general fund, although we know that our revenue will fluctuate depending upon what we sell.”
Cost areas: The report identifies three areas where operations are over the expected 35% spending that would occur in one quarter. Jail overtime is at 50% of its annual total after only three months. Airport Fixed Base Operations has spent 51% of its annual budget due to high fuel costs, although revenue from fuel sales will offset much of the increase. Assigned counsel costs were at 27% of that line’s annual budget after three months.