The Leader Staff

BATH – For the first time in recent memory, the Steuben County tax levy will decrease next year.

The Steuben County Legislature adopted the 2017 spending plan Monday night, shortly after a public hearing on the $177.8 million budget

The spending plan carries a tax levy of $50,008,771, down from the current budget’s levy of $50,010,577, officials said.

Under the budget, homeowners on average would pay $8.46 per $1,000 assessed value, a decrease of 13 cents per $1,000 from the current year.

Scott Van Etten, R-Caton, chair of the Legislature’s Finance Committee, said the 2017 budget provides services to county residents, while leaving room to absorb unexpected cost increases in the future.

Steuben County Manager Jack Wheeler credited flat Medicaid expenses, efficient staffing levels and increased state funding for highway improvements with the drop in the tax levy.

However, Medicaid remains the single largest expense for county taxpayers next year, accounting for $19.3 million and equal to 39 percent of the total levy.

Wheeler warned legislators court-ordered efficiencies in public defense could result in an additional $500,000 for Steuben taxpayers if the state fails to pick up the cost. To date, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not signed a bipartisan measure supporting the state takeover and passed by both the state Senate and Assembly, he said.

Key points in the adopted budget include:

n An increase of $627,000 for the Public Works Department.

n A decrease of $548,000 in costs for the Department of Social Services.

n An increase of $231,000 at the county Jail, due to state Department of Corrections requirements. Staffing levels holding steady at 850.

n An increase of $40,000 for a data analytics system, to track the county’s finances and operations and improve public access.

n An increase of $40,000 for CSS Workforce NY to support short- and long-term economic growth in the county.