BATH - The proposed 2020 Steuben County Budget includes a near one percent increase to the tax levy, but average tax rates throughout the county will decrease about two percent, according to Steuben County Manager Jack Wheeler.

The proposed 2020 spending plan carries the burden of the state’s criminal justice system reforms, while sales tax revenues and cuts to local spending will keep the increase in next year’s tax levy to a little more than 1 percent.

The $197 million budget was presented by Wheeler Thursday during a special workshop meeting of the Steuben County Legislature.

Wheeler said the spending plan calls for local costs to be offset in large part through a $2 million increase in projected sales tax revenues, some county reserves and interest, and cuts to local services.

“Creating the spending plan was challenging,” Wheeler said to the Legislature. “First and foremost the development of the budget is a team effort.

“From you folks (the Legislature) setting the priorities to our really talented department heads reviewing (the budget) and putting it together.”

The public hearing and adoption of the 2020 spending plan is scheduled for 11:30 a.m., Nov. 25, at the Steuben County Office Building.

If adopted, the tax levy will increase slightly to almost $50.5 million, while the average tax rate will drop $0.18, down to $8.07 per $1,000, a two percent decrease.

Wheeler said the levy increase of almost $500,000 is driven by state-mandated, unfunded reforms to the criminal justice system while promised revenues from the state remain in flux.

“This was an experience in figuring out changing numbers on an almost weekly basis,” Wheeler said.

Mandated local costs due to the state’s Criminal Justice Reform Act and the new centralized arraignment system mean costs in the county district attorney’s office will be up 23 percent next year, rising by $404,000.

The reforms will boost costs at the jail by almost $1 million, a 13-percent hike, Wheeler said. The new state mandates for criminal reform add to the 40-plus mandates the state already shifts onto county property owners, who bear the cost of the growth of state programs.

“It’s been a challenging year (preparing the budget),” Wheeler told the Legislature. “We really should have appreciated the good years more than we did. The last few years we were very fortunate. This year, not so much, and it is largely do to the pressures from New York State.”

In 2020, Steuben County will lose $1 million in PaveNY funds - leaving the Public Works Department $5 million for road construction, maintenance and repair, Wheeler said. Steuben's road system is a leader in the state, and an important element in the county's economic development efforts.

Wheeler said New York continues to rely on county taxpayers to foot a significant portion of the state’s budget.

According to Pew Research Center, a neutral source of data and analysis, the state draws almost 16 percent of its revenues from local sources, such as property taxes, compared to other states that use roughly 2.5 percent of revenue from local sources.

Steuben property owning residents will receive Steuben County tax bills in early January.