Immediate Release

Friday, October 5, 2007 

For Information Contact

798-5800

Picente Unveils Strong Fiscal Plan

To Develop Stronger Economic Future

 

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr. today released his 2008 proposed Oneida County budget, declaring that the strong fiscal plan provides the leadership and foundation for a stronger economic future for Oneida County .

“County Government has the power to bring the communities of Oneida County and the region forward; we have the responsibility to lead economic development efforts; we have the obligation to look after the vulnerable – from our seniors to our children; we have critical public health and public safety roles that only a strong county can uphold; and we have the ability to be the catalyst that brings partners together to create a stronger region,” Picente told the Board of Legislators. “To get the job done, Oneida County Government needs to be fiscally strong and fiscally responsible; able to respond to challenges that could devastate weak governments and take hold of opportunities that are open only to the strong. To do that, we must look at our fiscal future based on realism, not wishful optimism.”

Picente said the budget is a critical step for the county to declare fiscal independence from state and federal aid cycles and to increase its ability to assume a leadership role. “We will begin the restoration of fiscal order to maintain our credit ratings and develop fiscal strength that will lead to long-term growth without always being dependent on state or federal programs that typically come and go,” he said. “This budget reflects the very cold fiscal reality that we cannot spend down every penny in the bank and still have resources to support daily operations and respond to emergencies.  The reality of County Government is that at budget time, everyone wants to cut, and the rest of the time, our communities, our people, and our local agencies come to us looking for money to solve critical problems. The cost of missed opportunities eventually shows up on a balance sheet, but more importantly, it also shows up in the lives of people. 

Picente said the budget increases spending less than 1% despite increases in major mandated items, such as Medicaid. “The financial straits within which we found ourselves in the past have not disappeared with the “Medicaid cap.”  The Medicaid burden remains on local property taxpayers across the state,” he said. “That burden has added an additional cost of over $1.3 million to this budget.”

 Picente warned that the coming year is expected to be a time of economic uncertainty. “At a time when state government is increasing spending, experience should tell us that when the state has a fiscal problem, those problems roll down onto the shoulders of county government in the form of unfunded mandates,” he said. “With an unstable national housing market, rising health care costs,  volatile energy prices, and financial markets that veer from up to down in the course of a day, we must have sufficient capacity to cover potential cash flow shortages caused by delayed state payments, spiking costs or new state programs. We must be fiscally strong so we are not caught unprepared and have to incur the expense of short-term borrowing.”

The budget calls for a 4.912% increase in the budgeted levy.  Because of growth in the county’s tax base, the impact on taxpayers – on average – is about 1.2%. Picente noted that because of equalization rates that lead to widely different county tax rates in various communities, some county taxpayers will see a decline in their tax bills for 2008.

Picente said the budget’s capital plan makes important strides toward building a stronger future through projects at both the current and former Oneida County Airport locations as well as an investment in increasing the parking capacity of downtown Utica .

 Picente noted that there will be 15 positions deleted and 15 unfunded, but no layoffs.