FORT EDWARD — Washington County’s state-mandated shared services plan is expected to realize more than $700,000 in property tax savings, the public learned at a hearing Tuesday.
The plan is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s countywide shared services initiative, which includes developing a shared services panel, drafting a property tax savings plan and submitting that plan to the state for a one-time funding match of the realized savings from projects implemented in 2019.
Tuesday’s public hearing included a few town supervisors, a representative from the Department of State and a resident of Argyle. Two more public hearings are scheduled this week, with the full plan headed to a vote by the shared services panel on Sept. 13.
County Administrator Chris DeBolt highlighted five projects that in total may amount to $711,278 in property tax savings. Those include:
The towns of Dresden, Easton, Fort Edward, Jackson, Salem and White Creek currently have equalization values below 100 percent, according to the plan. The plan proposes to have those six municipalities come together and hire a firm to conduct a revaluation on the approximately 10,000 parcels involved.
Estimated cost savings: This will save approximately $17,200 to Dresden, $27,460 to Easton, $55,360 to Fort Edward, $31,180 to Jackson, $34,760 to Salem and $35,760 to White Creek, for a total estimated savings of $201,720.
As it has done with the town of Granville, Washington County proposes to contract with interested towns for assessor services. The towns listed above that do not have 100 percent equalization values would not be eligible for this service, but by doing the property revaluation, the county hopes that could be remedied.
Estimated cost savings: The service has already saved the town of Granville approximately $4,991. Considering the cost of hiring a part-time assessor combined with the new revenue for providing the service generates about $2,130 savings to Washington County, for a total project savings of $7,121.
This is a service Washington County already provides, but can be listed in the shared services plan. The county operates eight fuel pump stations utilized by many local municipalities. The fuel savings come from the county’s ability to purchase its gas and diesel on New York state contract, according to the plan.
Estimated cost savings: Total fuel savings for diesel are estimated at $78,465 and $58,105 for gasoline, creating a grand total savings of about $146,143.
Head Start relocation
Head Start is a pre-school program for low-income families throughout Washington County run by Learning, Employment, Assistance & Partnership (LEAP), the local Community Action Agency. The Head Start operation in Granville is located at 16 Church St., a location owned by the county.
DeBolt said the space is facing about $106,000 in repairs and the shared services plan proposes to move the program to additional space in the Mary J. Tanner Elementary School.
DeBolt said the county could then possibly avoid those capital improvement costs and sell the building. He was not sure Tuesday if the state would consider this cost savings for reimbursement.
“It’s a cost avoidance, and I don’t know exactly how they’re going to interpret that,” he said.
Estimated cost savings: Combining maintenance savings, capital investment savings and projected revenue from sale of the building, the county is expected to save $291,000.
DeBolt said according to municipal law, the Lake Champlain-Lake George Regional Planning Board is considered a municipal entity and thus eligible to be a part of the shared services plan.
The board contracts for its bookkeeping services. The shared services plan proposes to make the Washington County Treasurer’s Office an official bookkeeper for the entity.
Estimated cost savings: This will save the Planning Board about $32,424.
DeBolt said the panel will vote on the plan on Sept. 13. The panel includes town supervisors, village mayors and some school superintendents. If it passes, DeBolt will then submit it to the state Division of Budget by Sept. 15.
If the state accepts the plan, Washington County will implement the five projects and document its actual savings in 2019.
The state will then provide a dollar for dollar match of those actual savings.
“So, if everything were to come out rainbows and unicorns, and everything hits the mark, it would be $711,000 in savings, and then we would get a check from DOB (Division of Budget) for $711,000 to distribute to the affected entities,” DeBolt said. “It would not all go to the county. If the savings was in the town level, it would go to the town. If the savings was in the school level it would go to the school, etc.”
Three county supervisors were present, including Argyle’s Robert Henke, Granville’s Matthew Hicks and Easton’s Daniel Shaw. DeBolt warned them not to budget for the $711,000 because it was unclear when the state would provide the financial match, and if that would be the actual total by the end of next year.
There are two more public hearings this week. The first is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Greenwich Town Hall, and the second will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at Whitehall Town Hall. The panel vote for the plan is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sept. 13 in the Washington County Municipal Center.