October 23, 2021

County estimates millions in lost revenue

Cortland County Seal

Cortland County could see lost revenue and increased costs totaling $3.9 million because of coronavirus, County Administrator Rob Corpora told legislators Wednesday.

“That’s a very, very rough guess,” Corpora said.

That complicates a 2021 budget that already had an expected gap of $1.9 million because it used reserves to balance the 2020 budget, Corpora said as legislators met as a committee of the whole.

All options, including layoffs, are on the table to bridge the difference, Corpora told Legislator George Wagner (R-Marathon, Lapeer), who asked what plan the county had.

And the situation could be worse, Corpora said. He estimated a 20% decline in sales tax revenue about $3.2 million countywide, of which the county’s share would be about $1.73 million. However, the New York State Association of Counties said the drop could be anywhere from 4% to 35%.

“Depending on how long this lasts, it could be higher,” Corpora said. “People aren’t going to work, aren’t spending the money on fuel. Car dealers are closed, restaurant and bars are closed and the gas prices — those are the three major places where people spend sales tax money and pretty much they’re all shut down.”

On top of the sales tax loss, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has created a distressed hospital fund that would be funded via sales tax. The county’s share to pay would be $99,000; municipalities would contribute another $84,000.

The county may also lose another $1.7 million because the state expects it will also lose 15% of its revenue, and that would cut the state aid it provides.

“The governor can choose on a quarterly basis whether or not to increase our revenues based on what the state receives. If they receive what they’re expecting to, we should not lose any,” Corpora said. “In the past we knew how much we were going to get from the state, so we could budget for it.”

The county will likely see an increase in retirement costs due to the stock market.

“NYSAC has estimated 20 to 30%, I’m going with a 10% increase, which is $400,000,” he said.

“Has there been anything from the state about the CHIPS (Consolidated Local Streets and Highway Improvement Program) funding?” asked Legislator Kevin Fitch (R-Homer, Preble, Scott)

“My understanding is the CHIPS money is still in play at 100% funding,” Corpora said.

Because of that, Corpora said he has told Highway Superintendent Charlie Sudbrink to delay road projects.

Sudbrink said he was going to use some of the state highway aid to buy equipment, and another $1.5 million for road projects.

“The truck is already ordered and all the federal projects are still on schedule,” Sudbrink said Thursday. “The CHIPS projects are postponed a little bit until we get detail on funding.”

Legislator Joe Nauseef (RCortlandville) asked whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency will help support counties financially.

“We’re tracking every single thing that we do, every penny we spend that has to do with this COVID-19,” Corpora said.

“We are going to be putting in reimbursements for everything.”

He noted that FEMA could possibly cover 75% and the state and county share would each be 12.5%.