October 20, 2021

Cortland County Legislature budget vote set

Cortland County legislators are expected to vote on a $137.5 million 2021 budget Nov. 19 that would increase the property tax levy 1.5% after changes were made Tuesday by the Budget and Finance Committee.

Legislators voted, 7-0, to amend the 2021 budget proposal for changes to real property taxes, sales and use tax, sales tax payments to the towns and villages and appropriated fund balances.

“We received our last sales tax numbers on Friday and Monday and they are better than expected, and with that I changed the projection from basically a minus 10% loss or a 10% loss in sales tax revenue to a 7% loss,” said County Administrator Rob Corpora. “That allowed us to decrease the tax levy to get us under the tax cap.”

Corpora had originally proposed a 2.75% increase in the property tax levy — well past the 1.56% tax cap the state was allowing for the county.

It would have required a 60% supermajority vote of the legislature to break the capt.

If passed, the tax levy would increase about 1.5%, under the state imposed limit for next year.

“That’s good news,” said Legislator Sandra Price (D-Harford, Virgil).

Corpora revised his sales tax projection to $28.4 million, up from his proposed projection of $27.4 million, but down from the budgeted $30.5 million for this year.

One of the other big changes was that less was needed from unspent money from prior years.

The county used $1.9 million from prior years in the 2020 budget to reduce the gap between spending and revenue and the required tax levy increase. Corpora originally proposed using $855,000 for 2021, but then lowered it to $817,000. He did not indicate why he made that change.

That allowed the proposed property tax levy to be reduced to $37 million from $37.5 million for next year — although still up from $36.5 million for this year. It also means an increase in the amount of expected sales tax revenue to be distributed to municipalities, to $11.7 million from $11.2 million from the prior proposal.