Ossenfort outlines successes, challenges, and opportunities in state of county speech

Sound budgeting, the regional business plan, infrastructure, efficiency, and organizational improvement were on Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort’s agenda Friday morning as he delivered his third annual State of the County message.

The presentation took place at the Winner’s Circle in Fonda during a breakfast sponsored by the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Ossenfort said holding the line on taxes for 2017 would be challenging for two reasons:

  • The maximum allowed increase under the tax cap for 2017 will be less than 0.5 percent, which in Montgomery County’s case means less than a $135,000 hike in the tax levy;
  • Sales tax from the sale of motor fuels continues to decline along with the price of gasoline.

According to Ossenfort, Montgomery County realized $29.27 million in sales tax revenue in 2014, but only $27.21 million in 2015.

“That’s a decrease of 6.7 percent–the largest percentage drop in New York State,” he said.

Fortunately, the county budget projected $27.15 million in sales tax revenue for 2015.

“Thankfully, we weren’t as badly off as we could have been if we hadn’t budgeted conservatively,” he said.

Ossenfort also said the regional business plan is working, and the Montgomery County Business Development Center is showing results. Montgomery County received approximately $7.9 million as a result of the state’s consolidated funding application process and was able to finance all four of its “priority” economic development projects:

  • Global Village at Fulton-Montgomery Community College, $3.5 million
  • Nathan Littauer Primary Care facility, $208,000, projected to create 12 to 15 full-time jobs
  • Mair Magaw Information Systems, Amsterdam, $400,000, projected to create 57 jobs and 10 intern positions
  • Amsterdam wastewater disinfection project, $183,000

Ossenfort outlined the six goals being pursued as part of the regional business plan:

  • Educate and train the region’s workforce through an agricultural P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) program launching with HFM BOCES and Canajoharie Central School, the first program of its kind in New York, solar projects at Canajoharie Central School, and investments and partnerships with FMCC
  • Develop large and small “shovel-ready” sites within a regional business park
  • Market the region through a new website, promotional video, pocket folder and social media blitz, and a renewed relationship with the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce to run the county’s tourism program
  • Improve the region’s quality of life through grants secured by the Business Development Council including $300,000 for a countywide bike trail restoration project, $75,000 for a “Soldiers and Sailors” memorial park in St. Johnsville, $50,000 for Memory Lane Daycare in Amsterdam, $50,000 for Phase 2 of the Fultonville Dock, $30,000 for canalside improvements in the village of Fonda, $20,000 for critical remediation at Unity Hall and the West Hill School in Canajoharie, and $64,000 for the Mohawk Valley Snowmobile Clubs Inc. for maintenance of the county’s trails
  • Extend utilities and broadband throughout the region
  • Lower the local property tax burden in the region

Ossenfort also presented an update on the plan for county buildings. The first phase, expansion of the public safety building, should be complete by this summer. Condition assessment and re-use plans for both the county office building and the old courthouse should be completed by October 1. Both assessment plans will be included in the county’s 2017 capital plan.

He also talked about a plan to make the county more energy efficient, saving the county $1 million over the next 20 years. The county began working with SmartWatt Inc. in the fall of 2015, and the plan will be completed by this June. The plan calls for upgrading lights, boilers and windows in county buildings, and will result in reductions of 24 percent in electricity, 23 percent in natural gas and 25 percent in water. The upgrades will be paid for by energy savings and by a $134,000 grant from National Grid.

Ossenfort outlined a plan for the county’s roads and bridges, a six-year, $4.73 million capital plan, and a communication upgrade for first responders. He talked about strengthening client/partner relationships as well as risk management and employee safety,

In what Ossenfort called “The County Comes to Town,” he said a summary of Friday’s address will be delivered at village and town board meetings across the county.

“This will be an opportunity for residents to hear about the direction of the county and give them a chance to get more information on any of the initiatives that are ongoing at the county,” he said. “Residents can also ask questions and provide input on what’s happening in their communities.”

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.