Nov. 30—The Otsego County Board of Representatives held a last-minute budget workshop Monday, Nov. 29, to iron out the 2022 budget, which is scheduled to be approved during Wednesday's board meeting.
Otsego County Treasurer Allen Ruffles had been gone the past three weeks to fulfill his military duties and wanted to go over the proposed changes to the 2022 budget representatives talked about two weeks ago during a budget workshop meeting.
Ruffles said the 2021 budget was $112 million while the proposed 2022 budget is $130 million, and the projected revenue generated by property taxes is $12 million for 2022. He said the county will use $4.8 million of reserve funds to balance the budget, and sales tax revenues is higher than expected this year. The county will stay within the tax cap this year, he said.
The sheriff's department budget was a hotly discussed item during the meeting. The tentative 2022 budget includes the hiring of four corrections officers, three sheriff deputies and three sheriff deputy sergeants. Two of the four part-time corrections officers will not be funded in 2022. Board Vice Chair Margaret Kennedy, R-Hartwick, Milford, New Lisbon, said she would have liked if Sheriff Richard Devlin had gone before the administration committee for the request. Devlin said he was told to go to the committee that oversees his office, the public safety and legal affairs committee, which he did.
Devlin told the board he was very short staffed at the county jail and there were 11 corrections officers positions open now and there will be 12 at the end of the week.
Jill Basile, D-Oneonta, asked Devlin how the board could support the sheriff's department more.
Devlin said he wanted more conversations with the board representatives.
"I shouldn't be here pushing for personnel in December," he said.
The personnel he requested had already been added to the budget, Ruffles said.
Some of the late additions to the budget will be funded by state and federal reimbursements and money received by the American Rescue Plan Act funds.
Ruffles said the county earmarked ARPA funds for the countywide EMS service for the staff, but it did not earmark any money for supplies. The county will use $106,500 from ARPA to buy the supplies needed in the two ambulances in 2022. Ruffles said the county projects a "very conservative $250,000 revenue" from patients using the ambulance service.
The county received $5.7 million in ARPA funding this year and will receive another $5.7 million next year. The county has spent $4,316,000 of the funds so far, Ruffles said.
The county highway department was missing four positions in the highway department budget. After some discussion, it was agreed to fund three of the four positions in 2022. The budget also called for hiring some temporary positions in the highway department to complete a Federal Emergency Management Agency project. It will pay for the positions using money from the fund balance and will replenish that money when it receives the FEMA grant money, Ruffles said.
The county added an addictions counselor position to the 2022 budget. The county will receive some money through an opioid settlement next year, which could be used to help pay for the position, said Board Chair David Bliss, R-Cherry Valley, Middlefield, Roseboom.
The county will add a health specialist for the schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, which will be funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This person will coordinate between the county and the school districts. The county has a contract with the state to do this, which ends in March, Health Director Heidi Bond said.
Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_VickyK on Twitter.