Binghamton, NY – Broome County Executive Debbie Preston outlined her proposed financial outlook for 2017 in her annual Budget Address in front of the Broome County Legislature.
This year’s proposed budget is a $370 million spending plan. It comes with a tax levy increase of 0.77%, which is below the 0.9% New York State tax cap.
The increase equates a $3.78 increase for a home assessed at $80,000.
“We have had to make some very difficult decisions in the past to keep costs low for the almost 200-thousand people of Broome County,” says Preston. “This year, we see that those difficult decisions are paying off as we were able to craft a responsible budget, without cutting services, and still stayed within the tax cap.”
Sales Tax Sharing
When Preston took office in 2012, she promised to return to a 50/50 sales tax split with the local municipalities within 7 years.
Preston is proposing to increase the percentage shared by returning an additional 15% to municipalities this year. If the numbers come in as projected, the County will have returned $3.3 million to the municipalities.
In addition, the County reduced the contributions of municipalities to the local dog shelter, saving them $70,000 annually.
And the County is keeping the election costs to municipalities flat for the third year in a row – despite rising costs at the Board of Elections.
“As a former Supervisor, I know how important these savings are for our local towns and villages, and we know it’s having an impact” say Preston. “Earlier this week, Binghamton Mayor Rich David announced a .25% tax decrease, thanks in large part to the sales tax revenue that we are returning.”
Tough decisions made by Preston regarding the Willow Point Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center are paying off as well.
“Since I took office, there have been rumors that I was looking to privatize or close the Willow Point Nursing Home. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could be farther from the truth”
But thanks to those tough decisions, Willow Point has turned around and the 2017 budget projects adding nearly $400,000 to the fund balance there, the largest it’s been in years.
In addition, the County is hiring and retaining nurses, which is imperative to the future of Willow Point.
“I am incredibly proud of the transformation that Willow Point has gone through thanks to the leadership of Kevin Carey and his staff,” says Preston. “We believe these are just the first steps to taking the nursing home to even greater heights.”
Preston says she is also encouraged by the turnaround seen at B.C. Transit.
The County completed its first route analysis in over 20 years and found ways to improve service while saving taxpayers money.
B.C. Transit increased the frequency on the busiest bus lines and expanded service to new locations.
After two full months of the changes, 85 percent of customers surveyed feel that service is as good as or even better than just a year ago.
And those changes will yield a yearly savings of nearly $400,000, making Transit more self-sufficient, and less reliant on taxpayer dollars to operate.
And it comes with no increase in fares.
“We have worked tirelessly with Commissioner of Transit Greg Kilmer to turn that operation around, and we’ve done that,” says Preston. “The changes made to the routes have not only increased bus frequency, but has been approved by a majority of the public. And we are running that department more efficiently, lowering costs to the taxpayers.”
Fight against Opioids
Our area is facing a critical health concern: the terrible and tragic heroin epidemic that’s plaguing our community and many other parts of the state and nation.
Defeating this crisis is going to take a coordinated and concerted effort by elected officials, government agencies, law enforcement, non-profit organizations, community members, families and many others.
“Winning this fight is not about I, but about we,” says Preston. “We can, and will, win because the cost of losing even one more life to an overdose is too high.”
County Executive Preston announced that knocking on doors in Washington, D.C. and Albany to secure state and federal funding has paid off to the tune of nearly $6 million in 2017.
That’s almost double what was budgeted in the previous year for drug and alcohol treatment.
To help boost the team efforts to win this war, the budget allocates funding for three brand new Assistant District Attorney positions.
“I’d like to particularly commend District Attorney Steve Cornwell for working hard on this issue,” says Preston.