TO: Genesee County Legislators, Fellow Employees and Geneseeans
FROM: Jay A. Gsell, County Manager/Budget Officer
DATE: December 18, 2017
SUBJECT: Genesee County Adopted 2018 Budget
The County budget for 2018 contains a General Fund (core) appropriation proposal equal to $104,924,228 or approximately $1.2 million higher than the Adopted 2017 General Fund budget of $103,783,845.
This adopted budget is part of the larger County all funds adopted budget of $130,271,131 for 2018. This County Budget is the first County budget not to include any expenses related to the now sold former County Nursing Home, privately owned and operated by Premier Health Care. This transition has resulted in a reduction in overall expenses of almost $16 million from 2017 and approximately 160 fewer FTE’s on the County payroll.
The original requested 2018 County Departments and outside agencies fiscal “asks” submitted in early September 2017 would have required $1.5 million increase in the tax levy or cuts to that effect and a preliminary tax rate of $10.23/$1,000. Over the past 12 weeks the Budget Office working with our departments and related agencies as well an ongoing conversation with the nine member County Legislature have reduced the funding gap. Coupled with the use of $1.4 million in General Fund unappropriated fund balance (leaving the remaining fund balance amount at 10% of the General Fund appropriation). This adopted plan gets the County within the tax levy compliant NYS “mandated” ceiling at $10.07.
The above General Fund “balanced budget” includes a property tax rate of $10.07/$1,000 of assessed value consistent with the 2017 Adopted General Fund budget. This budget stays within the New York State mandated allowable tax cap levy limitation as all local governments move into the 7th year of property tax levy cap edict. For 2018, Genesee County tax cap % is 2.77% per the New York State formula = $793,668 in new levy revenue. For a median (typical) Genesee County home owner ($100,000) this would result in an essentially flat property tax increase for County services in 2018.
The $29,295,272, 2018 adopted property tax levy is approximately $596,157 greater than the 2017 Adopted property tax levy. Staying within the New York State property tax cap in 2018 and beyond is no longer a “nice to achieve” goal; Albany has now made exceeding the tax cap a significant negative option as the forthcoming criminal justice reform, known as Raise the Age (RTA), contains a “poison pill”. As the law becomes effective in October 2018 for dealing with 16 year old offenders and 17 year olds in 2019, any County that has exceeded the tax cap in the same year as the costs of compliance and multiple County departments and treatment agencies expenditure increase will not be reimbursed for said RTA costs (allegedly = 100% of County incurred costs reimbursable). This new wrinkle is likely to take on a greater presence in New York State mandated costs and offsetting reimbursement in programs like Indigent Defense, Public Health Article VI funding and a myriad of DSS public assistance programs and State Aid to counties for services rendered.
The 2018 County budget includes the ongoing 8-9 New York State mandated local fiscal shares and program delivery obligations that county governments in New York State can neither change nor not participate in their reform of these programs since their inception dating back in some cases to 1965. These local fiscal shares in 2018 will consume approximately 76% of the recommended County property tax levy or $22,303,254. The largest of these local shares is Medicaid which equals $9.4 million within the Department of Social Services budget and provides leveraged payments totaling $95 million/annually overall in federal, State and local health related reimbursement; approximately 60% of which is for long term/nursing home care and covers 12,500 of our County residents/children.
The other major mandated programs/expenses include Indigent Defense; Pre K/EI handicapped education services in the Department of Health; Probation; Mental Health, Jail, Safety Net, TANF/Family Assistance, Child Welfare, and Youth Detention which consume approximately $ 12,933,236 of the recommended 2018 County property tax levy. New York State and particularly the Governor pillory the counties as being culprits in the “too high tax burden” of the State in terms of economic development and the continued exodus of New York State residents to more property tax “conducive” states. New York State’s culpability in making counties direct payors into the above services unlike most other States in the U.S. is ignored by the Albany “powers that be” while they impose more “feel good” legislation like the Shared Services Initiative which Genesee County and its local government partners deferred into 2018 for a more concrete and concentrated analysis of possible collaborative service efforts with a potential overall cost saving result. 23 other New York State counties also held over their shared service analysis into 2018. Genesee County and its local government partners will continue our formal and informal collaboration and cooperation as well as submit a more nuanced report to the State mid-year 2018.
Genesee County is continuing its long standing shared services initiatives in the joint Genesee/Orleans Health Departments, Youth Bureaus along with the City of Batavia, County Highway Department equipment and joining of forces collaboration with all the Town and Village highway crews and fleet maintenance and fuel farm service “consolidation” with the Batavias, RTS and ARC of Genesee and the Village of LeRoy. Genesee County and its partners in local government have consistently been in the forefront on these types of initiatives and we will not rest on the laurels of our past successes as we look to the future and more shared services opportunities.
Not to be overlooked in the unrelenting New York State mandates is the now 3rd year of implementation of the increase in full time district attorney salaries which as of April 1, 2018, will increase to $ 193,000, with the last two increments in 2016 and 2018 being unreimbursed by New York State unlike what had been done when a special judicial salary commission put in place an automatic wage escalator in late 2015. This is merely a reflection on the unilateral and paternalistic attitude of Albany and the disregard for local County government fiscal constraints and not a reflection on the quality of essential prosecutorial services rendered here in Genesee County. This County expense is symptomatic of the lack of control New York State counties have over our fiscal fates.
The adopted budget does include the same County funding level for outside and County service related agencies with the exception of the already agreed to 2017 increase of $50,000 for the Genesee Community College operating budget which brings our local sponsor share to $2,586,374; again one of the lowest sponsor shares in both % (less than 6%) of operating budget and actual dollars in the SUNY-Community College system. The other exception as usual is the Tourism Promotion contract with the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce which said expense is offset 100% by bed tax revenue.
New personnel in this 2018 budget includes two new Sheriff E911 Center personnel – one of which will be a PSAP quality control and system compliance person and one additional line dispatcher so no missed/dropped calls occur in the 24/7/365 service the County provides for all law enforcement, EMS, 1st responder, fire and public works staff across the County. There is one new compliance officer within the County Manager’s Office for federal funding oversight and program adherence which has been strongly recommended by our outside/consulting corporate compliance attorney and our independent auditors who when performing our federally required Single Audit year end reconciliation reminded the County of both new federal compliance regulations and the possible risk to our $11 million annual federal funding that crosses numerous County departments and various County personnel. One new Human Resources Clerk to help the County maintain accurate civil service records and employee health plan maintenance, testing and identification within our 540 person workforce and as the civil service oversight entity for all countywide public sector employees. The County Human Resources department will thus return to the 4 person staff level of approximately 12 years ago.
Within the Department of Social Services, the need for one new Assistant County Attorney, approximately 75% funded by State Aid reimbursement, has increased significantly due to more and more complicated Child Protective Services and Family Court activity, foster care/parental separation cases, often due to recurring opioid/substance abuse and physical abuse and more petitions for adoptions which have increased three times the last few year’s actual case load. All this before the Raise the Age legislation and impact on our criminal justice system starts in October 2018.
Other part-time and rearranged classifications within the Office for the Aging, Mental Health, Public Health and Youth Bureau are part of this 2018 list of personnel changes. Additionally in 2018, the County will be realigning/consolidating services/supervision with regard to our mandated Weights and Measures Director when a new employee is hired in early February 2018 to replace the retiring Don Luxon and this employee and services will continue as part of our “consumer accountability/licensing under the County Health Department. The County IT department will provide more supervision, back-up and technology solutions to the Department of Social Services 3 person IT internal departmental presence while maintaining the 70% – 75% New York State personnel cost reimbursement for these DSS employees. This is critical as New York State continues to divest itself of equipment and program documentation and state passed down technology solutions; and Genesee County will be joining a number of other counties in this supervisory/interface realignment.
The continued realignment and changes within the County Mental Health LGU (local government unit) to meet emerging State mandated client services guidelines and reimbursement from New York State and Medicaid will include a revision to the top administrative presence and funding for Director Ellery Reaves from a full time employee to contracted administrator or part time administrative head as a new regional nonprofit oversight and administrative nonprofit entity of which Ellery will be the top agent of, becomes a reality in the first quarter of 2018 which will provide a savings of about $26,000 - $35,000 to the County in annual Mental Health operating expenses.
This Genesee County budget includes negotiated/executed compensation changes for all four employee unionized groups. Management personnel (approximately 100) will again have performance evaluation increases (or not) to their compensation within a range of 0 – 2.5% over their 2017 salaries.
This 2018 Genesee County Adopted budget includes the implementation of privatization of part of our County Motor Pool. This encompasses approximately 48 vehicles – SUV’s, sedans, and minivans being “leased” through Enterprise Lease Management over an initial 5 year term that will help the County maintain a reliable, cost effective “fleet” and save approximately $30,000/year in the initial 5 year term. A recently identified funding shortfall in our County Motor Pool “sub-budget” necessitated this creative and progressive vehicle availability option which is already being used by 5-6 other county governments in New York State. Projected savings and continued fleet quality in years 5 – 10 will remain strong should the county renew this “leased” vehicle option.
One of the major cost centers of this and most county budgets is employees (approximately 540 FTE’s) and their fringe benefits. Thank fully for the 2018 budget – the cost of New York State Pension percentage wise is flat for 2018 and the County now has approximately 24% of our FTE’s in Tier VI of the State retirement system which is less “employer” expensive and requires public worker- “life time” employee contributions. Also our self-funded County health care plan with approximately 1700 covered lives is projecting no premium equivalent 2018 increased cost % for the employees and the employer. County employees are now contributing 10 – 20% of the monthly premium from their paycheck. We are continually exploring more employee % cost sharing and ways to save on prescription costs and reducing exposure on “out of plan” benefit incidents through Independent Health regional and national networks. A high deductible/HSA plan option is now also becoming a reality within the County’s self-funded health plan profile.
This 2018 adopted budget includes both asset acquisition and potential capital project options for the County Legislature. The use of a portion of the County’s share of 1% sales tax proceeds and proceeds from the County Nursing Home sale for Highway and Bridge projects evidences the start of a more focused and multi-year commitment to address major County infrastructure needs beyond the Countywide water system. The 2018 CIP list does not yet include any funding for a possible $43 - $50 million new County jail as the space needs/future building analysis has just recently commenced by an outside consultant. Long term debt options in addition to G.O Bonds and USDA- Rural development financing will also need to be explored for our current undersized and somewhat inefficient 3 story, 88 bed male only jail. All females must be placed in other facilities around the region and the State, the logistics of which is becoming more and more difficult and expensive. New York State COC guidelines and care and custody best practices point more and more to a modern, larger male and female County jail in the next 5 – 10 years.
With this 2018 budget, Genesee County continues its tradition of fiscally responsible and conservative expenditures, a blending of technology and a trained workforce to carry out our daily service commitments as efficiently as practicable and reinforcing an ethos to quality customer service and safe workplace environments.
As we continue to wend our way through the labyrinth of New York State Mandates and lack of said mandate relief from Albany, new challenges like Raise the Age, the federal tinkering with Medicaid and ACA federal deficit reduction musical chairs, our continued attention to reasonable quality of life, allegedly “discretionary” services and programs is a critical part of our foundation of Genesee County Government and our commitment to excellence.
The Public Hearing for the County Manager’s recommended budget occurred Wednesday, November 8, 2017 in the Old Courthouse. The adoption of the County Legislature’s final 2018 budget occurred on November 20, 2017, on a 7 – 2 vote. There were no public comments or submittals presented at the hearing.
Again as we did in preparing the 2017 County Budget, the departments of County government and the Budget Office will update our recent 5 year County budget profile which incorporates New York State Comptrollers fiscal stress monitoring criteria and ICMA financial trend monitoring information to help County government gauge our present and future fiscal stressors, what changes need to be considered and how long term funding for capital improvements over the next 20 – 30 years will be addressed and paid for. At this time, the New York State Comptroller’s Office has profiled Genesee County as not experiencing fiscal stress and our S&P bond rating of AA- is both steady and sustainable, so our solutions and opportunities are squarely in our laps.
While continued discussions and negotiations over the next 2-3 Phases of the Countywide water project and water surcharge rates to fund up to $90 million in future water infrastructure- transmission mains, pump stations and water towers – are moving forward, the December 2018 deadline to amend and extend the Countywide sales tax sharing “formulas” is inextricably linked to the water capacity enhancements and our soon to be reconstituted master water agreement with the Monroe County Water Authority. There are a lot of moving parts and ongoing revised intermunicipal water infrastructure agreements being negotiated with the intent and goal to increase readily available, potable water capacity to at least 15.1 mgd by 2027. Coupled with the previously mentioned need to fund 7 – 10 year road and bridge infrastructure projects the County is seeking dedicated and consistent revenue support for both water capacity infrastructure via the “water use” surcharge and modest increases to same and with the potential sales tax proceeds sharing formula being modified to provide the County with sufficient revenue to cover infrastructure debt payments for roads and bridges and very likely within the next 5 – 7 years a new 125-180 bed male/female County jail; Genesee County is preparing multiyear water and road/bridge and facilities capital plans that will also help in seeking possible grants and loans to ease the local residents tax burden.
The public servants of Genesee County government take our mission outlined in the front of this 2018 adopted budget very seriously and the overarching strategy and attention to detail in our County Comprehensive Plan and the annual updating of same as well as the County Smart Growth Plan periodic updates and citizen involvement ensures accountability, transparency, cost effective services and an overall selfless attitude by all members of our workforce starting with the 9 member County Legislature and across all departments and related agency partners in the public/non-profit sector.