FORT EDWARD — Washington County has a looming hole in its 2016 budget as sales tax revenue continues to level out.
For years, the county could count on big increases in sales tax revenue every year. But the increase slowed last year, and now it has come to nearly a halt.
Budget Officer and Hebron Supervisor Brian Campbell summed up the situation in one word: “Bad.”
The county will likely end up collecting $400,000 less than it budgeted for this year. Campbell is already certain that the budget will come up short.
“We won’t make the budget number for 2016,” he said.
The county does have a healthy savings account, so the downturn isn’t going to push the county into crisis. But the county will have to use savings to pay for items that were to be paid for with the sales tax revenue.
It’s too late to cut spending effectively for this year, Campbell said.
Now, he has to decide how to budget for next year’s sales tax revenue. The big question: Should he assume revenue growth is over, and the county will simply collect $19 million in sales tax every year from now on? Or should he assume some modest growth, and perhaps budget for $19.3 million?
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“I’m still looking at it,” he said.
Currently, the 2017 budget cuts the amount of sales tax revenue it disburses to the towns and villages. The county gave $1.4 million in sales tax revenue to the towns and villages this year. For 2017, the estimated amount to disburse is $1.26 million.
Other than sales tax questions, the 2017 budget is nearly balanced already. Officials began examining the revenues this week, making tweaks and correcting mistakes where some revenues were left out. The current draft shows revenues very close to expenditures.
It’s looking so good that next week, the Board of Supervisors will consider $250,000 in requests for promotions and new hires. If the supervisors were to accept every request, the county would add about a dozen employees, Campbell said.
He cautioned that’s not likely.
“It’s easy for them to say no,” he said of the supervisors.
The board must also decide how to spend $350,000 from the state. That’s a one-time payment for the county’s share of the Schenectady Rivers Casino licensing fee.
“That’s a one-time deal,” Campbell said.
He’s advocating for the money to be spent on computer upgrades at the jail. The upgrades would be about $300,000 and are needed now, he said.
The computer system is part of the jail’s security.
“It’s pretty high-tech,” he said. “All the doors move (by computer).”
He doesn’t want to use the casino money for any recurring cost — such as paying for new employees.
“You always use a one-time revenue for a one-time expense if you can,” he said. “Because it’s not going to be there again.”
The Board of Supervisors will meet next on the budget at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 13 at the Washington County Municipal Center.