Ossenfort presents proposed budget for 2016

Montgomery County legislators got their first look at County Executive Matthew Ossenfort’s proposed 2016 budget of $108.6 million Tuesday .

The proposal calls for a 1.98 percent tax increase, even though spending would be lower than the 2015 total of $108.6 million. The proposed tax increase is under the state-mandated tax cap, insuring that qualifying homeowners will receive tax relief reimbursements, Ossenfort said. According to Ossenfort, the proposed budget allows the county to “continue making investments and upgrades” including the expansion of the Public Safety Building, upgrading the county’s radio communication system, more money for local infrastructure and a “smartwatt” agreement to increase energy efficiency, he said.

“Department heads did a great job of holding the line,” Ossenfort said.

Another feature of the proposed budget is a reorganization of the Public Works Department that will save an additional $15,000 while also “gaining efficiency through better organization,” Ossenfort said. The proposal calls for a commissioner, a deputy commissioner and directors of buildings and grounds, finance, automotive and highways and bridges.

Ossenfort also said the county must “aggressively support economic development opportunities and attempt to increase county revenues and provide better job opportunities.”

He talked about the proposed regional industrial park, which he said represents “a singular opportunity for Montgomery and Fulton counties to drive economic development within the region, create jobs and generate property tax revenue.” The 285-acre site represents the largest “shovel-ready” site ever assembled in this region, he said.

District 1 Legislator Martin Kelly, chairman of the Legislature, said afterwards that the Finance Committee will look at the proposed budget very carefully and “try to whittle [the tax increase] down.”

“I would like to see us as close to zero as possible,” he added.

A public hearing on the proposed budget must be held on or before Oct. 5, and the Legislature must meet on or before Oct. 10 to consider adoption of the budget or making any changes in the plan. Ossenfort then has until Oct. 23 to approve or veto the Legislature’s version of the budget. Legislators can override an executive veto by a two-thirds vote, but must do so on or before Oct. 31. The final budget would take effect Jan. 1, 2016.

John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.