Genesee County Budget

2024 Adopted Budget

TO:            Genesee County Legislators, Fellow Employees and Geneseeans

FROM:       L. Matthew Landers, County Manager/Budget Officer

DATE:        November 28, 2023

SUBJECT:       Genesee County Adopted 2024 Budget

As Genesee County Manager, I am pleased to present the 2024 adopted budget for the Genesee County Legislature to consider. This budget funds County government in an efficient and responsible manner while making key investments which will help deliver better service to the residents of Genesee County. The adopted budget stays under the NYS tax cap, while covering a lengthy number of expensive State mandates of which we have little to no control.  Crafting a balanced 2024 adopted budget presented considerable challenges, particularly in addressing a $3.4 million deficit that emerged after receiving budget requests from all Department Heads. This deficit was eliminated through the hard work of the Manager’s Office, Treasurer’s Office and Human Resources Department staff all coming together to help me deliver my fourth adopted budget as County Manager. These departments were instrumental in assisting me with presenting a budget that stays well under the tax cap while meeting the needs of the residents of Genesee County.

The next few budgets will have a uniform theme and consistent message from the Manager’s Office which centers on the new County jail and the constant race to keep water supply ahead of demand. The County is embarking on two of the largest capital infrastructure projects in its history with a new County jail carrying a price tag of approximately $70 million and phase three of the County wide water system with a current projected price tag of $150 million. These two projects are going to weigh heavily on decisions made by the Manager’s Office and County Legislature for the foreseeable future, and is evident in the 2024 adopted County budget.

To meet the challenge of keeping the net County support impact in line with the 2023 budget, County departments were encouraged to think innovatively and find cost-effective solutions. This was a challenge considering New York State Retirement rates were once again increasing while higher than normal inflation and supply chain issues are causing vendor contracts to increase.  Despite these increases, I was pleased to see the majority of departments hold the line on spending, which helped greatly in delivering a budget that stays under the tax cap.

Budget Highlights   

The 2024 adopted All Funds budget for Genesee County totals $182,984,828, which is $20,309,331 more than the 2023 adopted All Funds budget. The 2024 adopted General Fund (operating) budget is $138,514,770, which is $14,158,994 more than the 2023 adopted General Fund budget. Major increases impacting the All Funds budget include approximately $5 million in phase 2 construction costs in the County Water Fund, seven new hires related to the new County Jail, additional operational cost increases at the Jail in preparation for the facility opening in 2024, both of which amount to approximately $1.9 million, increased Medicaid costs to the County for approximately $1 million as a result of NYS eliminating the Federal subsidy known as eFMAP, two new contracts with local ambulance service providers totaling over $600k annually, NYS Retirement cost increases for approximately $1.2 million,  necessary collective bargaining contract increases for a highly dedicated and underpaid workforce which amount to approximately $3 million, and inflationary cost increases that are causing significant budgetary increases in a variety of commodities the County purchases every year.

I am proposing a property tax levy of $32,722,377, which is an increase of $641,615 or 2.00%.  For the median residential household in Genesee County with an assessed value of $138,000 this amounts to $21.85 of property taxes. The average County property tax rate in Genesee County would go down from $8.45 to $8.08 or 4.37% in the adopted budget. For the median residential household in Genesee County assessed at $138,000, that did not have an assessment change from 2023, this will result in a net tax decrease of $51.06. 

The adopted budget includes usage of approximately $1,500,000 of unappropriated fund balance, a decrease of approximately $500,000 from the 2023 adopted County budget.

The 2024 adopted budget includes a continued commitment in increased funding for our roads and bridges infrastructure annually by $1 million. Past deferred maintenance on the County’s infrastructure has put the County in catch-up mode and the cracks are showing. This continued commitment of an extra $1 million is a big step in addressing the deferred maintenance of the County road and bridge infrastructure.

The County continues to make strategic investments in its workforce, which will result in better service delivery to Genesee County residents. A large share of the investments in the 2024 adopted budget are being made in public safety. Newly created positions are necessary to run an effective 21st century correctional facility and include creating six new Correction Officer positions and a new custodial position to help maintain the significantly larger County Jail.  In addition, the County is creating a new Assistant District Attorney (ADA) position and an Investigator position in the DA’s Office, along with providing new stipend pay for ADAs which will require the presence of an ADA at all off hours CAP Court arraignments.  These public safety additions are a direct result from listening to the needs of local law enforcement and making the changes to keep the public safe.

The 2024 adopted budget includes funding for two new contracts with local ambulance providers for over $600,000 annually to help stabilize emergency response resources in Genesee County.  This action was listed as one of the recommendations from a recent County funded study that examined fire and ambulance service in Genesee County.  These new contracts will strengthen the capabilities of local providers, improve emergency response times for County residents and allow the County to avoid directly purchasing ambulances and hiring staff.

Budget Challenges

While there were familiar challenges in this budget such as rising wages and retirement costs, and costly state mandates, two major issues looming for the 2024 and future budgets are the new Genesee County jail and the challenge for Genesee County to keep water supply ahead of demand through the construction of phase three of the County wide water system:

  • NYS Retirement Cost Increases – These costs have risen significantly, with an average increase all tiers exceeding 18%, resulting in a $1,200,000 overall increase in the 2024 budget.
  • Wage Increases – Rising wages in every sector has made recruiting and retaining qualified and capable County employees more challenging. Two of the County’s four bargaining agreements expire at the end of 2023 resulting in planned increases for 2024 to address the need for the County to pay competitive wages to retain and attract quality employees.   
  • Mandates – Approximately 92% of the 2024 adopted property tax levy is made up of State mandated expenditures to fund departments and programs such as Medicaid, Probation, the Jail, Public Defender’s Office, Assigned Counsel, Social Service programs, Mental Health, Early Intervention, 3-5 Preschool services, and various others.
  • New Genesee County Jail – The opening of the long overdue new Genesee County Jail is planned for spring of 2024, and with it brings one of the largest capital projects in County history. With a projected all-in price tag of approximately $70 million, the debt service payments are approximately $3.5 million annually. In addition to the debt service, the 2024 operational increase to the Jail has been budgeted at approximately $1.9 million. For 2024, there is the hiring of six new corrections officers, a new custodial position and a new contracted Jail Medical service, which are large contributors to the $1.9 million increase.
  • Genesee County Water System, Phase 2, 3 & 4 – Genesee County is nearing completion of the $25+ million phase 2 of the County-wide water system, and is quickly designing the $150 million phase 3 which should hopefully break ground in the next few years. Phase 3 includes bringing in enough water from Monroe County to close the City of Batavia water plant, which draws from a threatened source and has long outlived its useful life. However, before the plant comes off-line, millions more have to be invested to ensure water supply keeps up with demand until phase 3 is complete.

County Responses to Budget Challenges

The New York State Tax Cap penalizes Counties for enacting an override resulting in limited options for meeting budget challenges.  Genesee County has a long history of doing more with less, sharing wherever possible, privatizing operations, deferring needed capital improvements, modestly compensating employees, and providing virtually no post-employment benefits to staff. After years of cutting to the bone the following actions and revenue sources were available to close the gap for the 2024 adopted budget: 

  • Fund Balance Utilization – The 2024 adopted budget utilizes approximately $1,500,000 of fund balance.
  • Reserve Utilization – The 2024 adopted budget utilizes a little over $1 million from reserves established specifically to soften large increases in unfunded state mandates.
  • Raising the Tax Levy – The 2024 adopted budget raises the levy 2.00% in 2024, which continues Genesee County’s continued adherence to the New York State property tax cap.
  • Budgeting Increased Sales Tax – Recent favorable sales tax trends have allowed the County to budget an increase in sales tax revenue of $6,700,000 for the 2024 budget. A combination of the price of goods increasing as a result of inflation, larger online purchasing by Genesee County residents and the retail growth experienced in the Town of Batavia have helped fuel this growth in sales tax. In addition, a large percentage of the sales tax revenue generated in Genesee County is derived from gasoline sales.
  • Budgeting Increased Interest Earnings – Recent increases in interest rates coupled with a stabilized Fund Balance and utilization of outside investment consultants have allowed the County to budget for an additional $1,450,000 in interest earnings in the 2024 budget.
  • Line by Line Review with New Perspective – For the third year in a row I was accompanied by the Assistant County Manager and Executive Assistant in every budget meeting, a process that initiated new ideas and resulted in savings in several departmental budgets. A deeper dive into individual budget lines resulted in significant budgetary savings when aggregated. We were also able to utilize greater sharing of resources between departments to capture more state aid and reduce the net county share in several cases.

In Closing

While I am pleased to present a budget that stays within the confines of the New York State Tax Cap and effectively lowers the property tax rate by $.37/1,000, I am not blind to the significant impact the proposed tax levy has on the citizens and businesses of Genesee County. My commitment as County Manager is to work closely with local governments, community not-for-profits, businesses and citizens to ensure the prudent use of these resources. 

Special thanks are extended to Vicky Muckle, Tammi Ferringer and Scott German for their assistance with helping me prepare this year’s budget. While all three provided many hours of counsel, expertise and debate, Vicky ensured countless budget revisions were accurate and timely. As the seasoned veteran in the office, Vicky ensured I stayed on task in delivering this balanced budget. I also want to thank the Legislature and Chairwoman Stein for their valuable insight, guidance and feedback during this budget season. 

The 2024 Genesee County budget is turned over to the Legislature for their consideration and eventual adoption. I look forward to further discussion with Legislators and citizens to ensure that the budget meets the needs of this community.