Wayne County official defend surplus

Posted at: 04/18/2013 5:55 PM
Updated at: 04/18/2013 7:37 PM
By: Ray Levato

If you live in Wayne County, the county government keeps too much of your tax money. At least that's what New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said following an audit of its budget.

He says county officials adopted recent budgets that are not realistic, and as a result, the county has a nearly $60 million surplus. The report says county budgets from 2007 to 2011 have overestimated costs and underestimated tax revenue. DiNapoli says a surplus is a good financial cushion, but one in Wayne County is too much.

News10NBC spoke with taxpayers and the county board of supervisors. We asked is this stashing away too much money for a rainy day as a comptroller suggests or is it just being prudent in times of economic uncertainty?

Williamson Supervisor Jim Hoffman says it's just being prudent. He is chairman of the Wayne County Board of Supervisors. Hoffman says there are a number of factors why the county accumulated such high reserve funds. One is that sales tax revenue was far more than the county projected in a weak economy. Another is that they have a major building modernization project coming up.

Hoffman says, "What it is is sort of a savings account. The Wayne County Board of Supervisors has decided to use that judiciously and prudently to actually lower the tax rate. And actually, that's what we've done for the last seven years."

News10NBC asked if some of this money could be refunded back to taxpayers?

Hoffman says "It could be. In the abstract you could say that. However, if you do that it'll have consequences long-term."

Former Wayne County Democratic Chairman Ed O'Shea says, "The taxpayers of this county are really overburdened with taxes it seems to me. And if there is a chance that their rates could be lowered even further because of these terrific surpluses, I, as a taxpayer of Wayne County, would want to see my rate lowered."

The supervisor released a chart that shows Wayne County was able to reduce its property tax rate, five of the last six years, down from a high of $8.44 per thousand of assessed value.

Wayne County has also set aside $8 million for an energy project to modernize all the county-owned buildings. With its large rainy day fund, the county says they won't have to borrow to pay for that project. Supervisor Hoffman says that saves taxpayers in interest payments.