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Genesee County Legislature readies vote on $142 million budget

BATAVIA – After weeks of discussion on goals to maintain services and a low property tax, the Genesee County Legislature is ready to vote on a $142 million budget for fiscal 2015 that is fairly close to the current year’s spending level.

County Manager Jay A. Gsell, who is also the budget director, filed a nine-page final report that the legislators are expected to approve next month. It calls for a property tax rate of $9.86 per $1,000 assessed valuation, a drop of 18 cents. That would save the average property owner about $15 to $20 depending on assessments.

The budget is a hold-the-line exercise with help from some unexpected funding sources.

The Seneca Nation of Indians will restore its annual payment of $300,000 for its exclusive rights to gaming in Western New York counties. A $170,000 surcharge on 911 calls will go to the sheriff’s department. A reduction in one of numerous mandates results in a 9 percent reduction in the county’s contribution to the state retirement fund.

Gsell repeated a oft-heard complaint from the Legislature where unfunded state mandates consume 72 percent of the budget. Half of that – $10 million – goes toward Medicaid, which supports about three out of every four patients at the county’s 240-bed skilled nursing home.

County department heads were instructed not to seek increases in spending, although some new jobs will be added. Non-government agencies will be allocated the same amounts as in recent years.

Genesee Community College asked for and will receive $500,000 over the next two years to offset possible changes in the charge-back payments for students from other counties.

Probably for the last time, the nursing home will receive a $4 million subsidy. The facility is for sale and six nursing home operators have made bids.

Gsell will use $2.5 million from this year’s fund balance, the same transfer as last year, in his effort to curtail the property levy.

He said the funding plan is “a path to community health and prosperity built on a foundation of quality services. It also looks to the future with funds to maintain the county’s highways and bridges where state financing is insufficient.”