BINGHAMTON, NY – Despite the economic fallout of the pandemic wreaking havoc with county finances to the point that he’s been pleading with the federal government to provide fiscal relief, Broome County Executive Jason Garnar has managed to propose a budget for next year that cuts property taxes.
Other than the miniscule .1% tax cut, Garnar says the budget is mostly flat with no new programs or initiatives.
He says now would be the worst time to raise taxes on property owners.
Instead, the county expects to maintain its current hiring freeze which has left more than 200 positions open.
Add in the roughly 300 positions that had already been eliminated in recent years, and Garnar says residents should appreciate the hard work and dedication of county employees.
“County employees are doing more than they’ve ever been asked to do before. And it’s important because if we didn’t have Broome County, we didn’t have our health department, our Office of Emergency Services, all of our other departments, we would not have been able to successfully fight this pandemic and we would be in a lot worse shape,” says Garnar.
The budget does create two new positions in the Office of Emergency Services.
One will be an Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, to help the county get ready for the next disaster.
And the other is to oversee the new school bus arm camera program.
Garnar says county departments were asked to keep their spending flat or even find cuts.
The Department of Social Services is proposing spending 400 thousand dollars less and the Sheriff’s Office found $50,000 in savings.
Nevertheless, due to an ongoing deficit in sales tax collection of about 11 percent, Garnar expects the county’s entire 15 million dollar fund balance to have been exhausted by the end of this year.
Garnar’s opponent in November’s election, Republican Karl Bernhardsen, criticized Garnar’s plan for lacking vision.
Bernhardsen says the county should be putting forward proposals for how to be more resilient and less reliant on state and federal funding.
And he argues that a tax reduction during an economic crisis suggests fuzzy math and unrealistic revenue and expenditure predictions.