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Author: Administrator Account/Wednesday, December 12, 2018/Categories: General, Legislature

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LOCKPORT—Niagara County lawmakers approved a $359 million budget plan Tuesday night reducing taxes to their lowest level in decades, at $7.01 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.


That represents a 1.3 percent cut over last year’s tax rate.  In addition, the 2019 budget is $628,000 below the state mandated tax cap.  This is the eighth consecutive year that the County’s budget has been under the New York State Property Tax Cap Limit.


The budget also included amendments to increase projected sales tax revenue by $200,000 to $69,715,000 and to eliminate $35,000 earmarked for demolition of a county property at 171 Niagara Street in the City of Lockport.  Recent sales tax figures have indicated that sales tax receipts will surpass that amount budgeted in 2018 and the County administration is confident that this projection remains conservative.  With respect to the property at 171 Niagara Street, the Legislature will ask NORLIC, the county land bank, to accept the property and find a suitable reuse of the property that will return it to the tax rolls.


The County used $3.5 million of fund balance to reduce the property tax levy, however, the unassigned fund balance remains at 6% of the 2018 budgeted appropriations.  This is consistent with established County fund balance policy and viewed favorably by bond rating agencies.  The County’s current Moody’s bond rating has remained at a superior level.


The budget also provides $20,000 to fund operations of the Niagara Military Affairs Council, the grassroots community group that has led several efforts to preserve the Air Force base and its nearly 3,000 jobs.  


The County budget also invests in our highway infrastructure.  The Department of Public Works has added heavy equipment operators and truck drivers to complete more highway rehabilitation projects in-house, reducing road construction costs by over 50 percent. 


Legislature Chairman Wm. Keith McNall, R-Lockport, pointed to the 9 cents per $1000 reduction in the countywide full value property tax rate and the tax levy, which is well under the property tax cap, as proof that county lawmakers are continuing to work to reduce the burden on county families.


“Our families deserve a fiscally responsible county government, and this is a fiscally responsible county budget,” McNall said.


Legislature majority leader, Randy Bradt, R-North Tonawanda, said, “This budget represents a year-long process aimed at transparency and fiscal-responsibility, which contains costs wherever possible, while maintaining essential County services, despite the continuously increasing burden of unfunded state mandates.”


The County Manager, Rick Updegrove, praised the efforts of the County department heads in producing tentative budgets that met the targets of the legislature.  “Our department heads met their targets by making the difficult decisions that controlled spending while maintaining essential services.”


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