Niagara County budget projects another property tax decrease

Dec. 3—The proposed 2023 Niagara County budget reflects another reduction in the county property tax rate.

The budget projects a full value tax rate of $5.62 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That is 56 cents, or 9.1%, less than the 2022 tax rate.

The amount of property tax to be raised for the general fund is projected to be $90 million, $2.1 million or 2.5% more than the 2022 tax levy.

The budget projects $407 million in total revenue across all funds for 2023, a $33 million or 8.86% increase on 2022 projected revenue.

Niagara County Manager Richard Updegrove called the decreasing of property tax rate a fair reflection of the performance of the county government, since the tax base is growing as it added residential and commercial valuation.

"That pot of money, if it's divided among more people, that rate will come down because you have more and more people who are contributing," Updegrove said.

County sales tax revenue is budgeted for $84.6 million, a $9.6 million or 12.8% increase from 2022. Updegrove said that projection is based on various factors including inflation and accounting for sales tax on online purchases, which the county began doing in 2020.

For the 12th consecutive year, the county budget keeps the tax levy under the state property tax cap, which is either 2% or the rate of inflation, whatever percentage is lower. While the proposed 2023 tax levy is 2.2% greater than the 2022 levy, according to Updegrove it's under the true cap, 2.4% when a tax base growth factor of 0.4% is added in.

County appropriations are expected to increase by $12 million, or 3.2%. Updegrove said some of those increases are due to: the implementation of a new ambulance service to supplement existing Emergency Medical Services, at a cost of $2.1 million; enhancing information technology equipment for the county networks, at a cost of $1.3 million; and purchasing new voting machines, at a cost of $875,000.

Inflation is a factor in increased appropriations — think fuel, tires, salt, machinery, and increasing wages — but, Updegrove said, "Our increase in spending is less than the rate of inflation" even with the new ambulance service, voting machines and information technology.

Nine state-mandated expenses account for approximately 84% ($75.5 million) of the county property tax levy. These are: Medicaid, New York State retirement contributions, pre-school special education, Early Intervention, youth detention, child welfare, indigent defense, probation, and Safety Net (welfare).

A public hearing on the proposed budget will take place at 5:40 p.m Dec. 6 at the Niagara County Courthouse. The county legislature will vote on adopting the budget at its Dec. 13 meeting.