Open Space Incentives, Increased Assessments Bolster Allegany’s Budget

Allegany’s proposed fiscal 2019 operating budget provides an increase to its general fund of 4 percent – and also proposes reducing the property tax rate by 1/10 of $0.01. The general fund budget of $90,346,419 increases over fiscal 2018 by $3.5 million.

The increase in revenues comes in part from a 0.6 percent increase in assessments, which provides an additional $1.7 million in property taxes. It also includes, for the first time, $1.3 million through the new Open Space Incentive Program, which compensates certain counties with large amounts of state-owned land for lost property taxes. This program came into effect through Senate Bill 273 of 2017 – a bill MACo avidly supported.

Allegany projects that income tax revenues continue to decrease for a second consecutive year, this time by $500,000.

The budget flat funds all outside agencies, including the local board of education, which still receives funding well in excess of maintenance of effort for the first time in years. County employees receive a 2 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), and flat health insurance costs as a result of a successful re-bid of the County’s health insurance plan.

Allegany taps into its balance for nearly $1.6 million to fund increased public safety efforts and capital transit. According to Director of Finance Jason Bennett, CPA’s cover letter, this still allows the County to maintain two months’ worth of operations in its fund balance, as recommended by GASB 54.

From that letter:

The hard decisions and tough cuts and sacrifices of the past several years are allowing us to present this budget with slight increases and allows us to continue to maintain a strong financial position that the taxpayers deserve of their government. We have reached or exceeded our goals for debt service and fund balance continues to be well positioned so that we may offer the services we promise to our citizens.

The Commissioners are scheduled to adopt the budget on June 7.