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|Monday, October 3, 2020||
Griffo: No Tax Increase in
Oneida County Executive Joseph A. Griffo today unveiled his proposed 2006 county budget, which holds the budget for county property taxes stable for the second consecutive year.
“Because we know that working families, seniors and businesses need relief, there will be no increase in Oneida County’s property tax levy in 2006,” Griffo said in his message to the Oneida County Board of Legislators. “I know how hard it is to make ends meet when heating costs are rising 30% or higher, gasoline is almost $3 a gallon and property owners have already been hit with school and municipal tax increases.”
“This is a time of great opportunity here in Oneida County and we need to nurture this growth to attract more jobs and people,” Griffo added. “The long-term future of Oneida County rests in making this a place where people want to live, work and build. Our county’s growth in jobs can spur home sales. We want low property tax rates to make that growth even better.”
Griffo said that despite rising costs in areas such as utilities, fuel, contractual obligations including health insurance, and mandated Social Services programs, Oneida County is not increasing taxes because “due to changes in the financial markets, there was an opportunity through the tobacco settlement to receive the present value of future residual payments from the years 2025 through 2045. Comptroller Joseph Timpano guided us through a complex process, working with financial advisers, the New York State Association of Counties and a pool of about 14 other counties.”
Funds secured through this option will allow Oneida County to stabilize property taxes in 2006 and go forward with the planned reduction of the sales tax rate.
“Using this revenue for tax stabilization honors the promise I have made that the taxpayers will be my top priority. Since I have been your County Executive, Oneida County property taxes will have increased 2.9%,” Griffo said. “The state Comptroller's recent report says county property taxes rose 16% on average from 2003 through 2005. The New York State Association of Counties reports some county property tax levies increased as much as 70% from 2002 to 2005.”
“We can look forward in 2006 because this has been a year of pragmatic fiscal conservatism in action as we faced – and overcame – challenges,” Griffo said. ““Because this Board and this County had the nerve to tell state government what Medicaid was doing to our taxpayers, and because we refused to throw that burden on property owners, we helped spark a statewide fire that – after years of talk – finally led to action to limit the growth of counties’ Medicaid costs.”
Griffo also noted that his transit initiative has allowed CENTRO to come to Oneida County, providing quality service to Utica, Rome and towns such as New Hartford and Whitestown. He also cited Oneida County’s job growth through the Family Dollar Distribution Center’s 465 jobs and its major victory in the BRAC process that saved 500 jobs and will add at least 600 more jobs to the area.
Griffo cautioned that County Government faces fiscal challenges. “Although Medicaid will drop from 2005 to 2006, other mandated Social Services programs are growing through spending we do not control. Medicaid will also keep growing, because although the state cost-containment plan limits our cost increases, it does not stop them. We must be vigilant and vocal in 2006, because if we are not, the Albany Bureaucrats will undo with their red tape and rules what the Legislature and Governor sought to do with their Medicaid cost relief package,” Griffo said.
The 2006 budget consolidates the Office for the Aging and the Department of Mental Health. It also merges the Division of Budget into the Department of Finance.
“The county workforce continues to shrink,” Griffo said. “We have reduced positions every year. We will continue to do so. There were 1,791 positions when I came here in 2003. Now, there are 1,650. That’s a 7.8% decrease. I said in my fiscal plan released this July that my goal for 2006 was to cut 100 positions. I plan to eliminate 58 positions. I expect that our early retirement plan, which will be announced shortly, will reduce the workforce even further.”
Griffo said the budget provides a 3% increase to libraries and cultural agencies and continues support of the Stanley Performing Arts Center’s expansion as well as assistance for HVAC projects at the Utica and Rome libraries. It also implements a fuel adjustment to help towns that plow county roads pay rising fuel costs.
“County Government is a catalyst that makes things happen,” Griffo said. “Because we stepped in and showed leadership, CENTRO is providing efficient transit service in Rome and Utica. Without county involvement, two under-funded systems would have floundered. We turned that around, and we now have a solid transit system we can use to get people to jobs. Our track record goes beyond CENTRO. In this past year we’ve fought for the people of our county in Albany to limit the burden of Medicaid. In just a few months, Our Office for the Aging has distributed 12,000 drug discount cards as part of our Pharmacy Benefit Manager Program. This project has produced savings on skyrocketing prescription costs to help seniors and families make ends meet.”
“Day in and day out, thousands of people rely on County Government. In 2004, our Health Department provided 13,396 immunizations, screened 3,395 children for lead, made 3,356 home visits under our Healthy Families program and provided health clinic services to 2,500 people. We have increased our commitment $100,000 next year - to a total of $6,462,059 - toward education for the future at MVCC and our support of community renewal with another $300,000 commitment to the HOPE VI project in Utica. We provide road patrol services that are the major line of defense in many of our rural communities. We serve as a focal point for leadership to realign service delivery and reduce the overall cost of government, because the people cannot continue to pay for the structure of government as it exists today,” he said, adding:
“All of this is part of our mission:
“We face challenges,” Griffo said in conclusion. “Mandates continue to try and drag us down. Costs and needs are both rising. But with 1,000 new jobs and great potential for even more economic growth, the property tax stability the people of Oneida County need and deserve, and a regional can-do spirit from our victory with BRAC, Oneida County is moving forward into a brighter, better future.”