Niagara County sig

Niagara County Courthouse in Lockport

LOCKPORT — Niagara County administrators have unveiled a proposed 2021 budget that cuts spending and jobs but is expected to increase property taxes.

While the tax increase will not exceed the state’s property tax cap, the tax levy for 2021 will be 2.95% higher than 2020. That will generate an expected $86 million dollars. The budget projects sales tax revenue for 2021 of $761.8 million.

The tentative 2021 spending plan totals $361,874,497, a 1.74 percent or $6.4 million decrease from 2020’s $368,291,537 adopted budget.

County Manager Richard Updegrove said he expects property tax collections to increase next year because of increased property valuations, fueled by new residential construction and business relocations. Estimated tax increases vary across local municipalities.

“I think it’s a good indicator of the health of the county,” Updegrove said. 

The county manager noted that 2021 will be the 10th consecutive year that the budget has remained under the property tax cap. 

Both Updegrove and County Budget Director Daniel Huntington said they expected county sales tax revenue for 2020 to be on target.

“We believe we’re going to hit our 2020 numbers,” Huntington said. “We were experiencing historic sales taxes gains in January and February and then that went away. And then we recovered in September.”

Both the budget director and county manager said they expect sales tax revenue in 2021 to mirror this year’s collections. They also said, based on earlier furloughs and costs savings, that they expect the 2020 budget to “end in the black.”

The budget proposal eliminates 31 positions, 15 full-time, nine part-time and seven seasonal. The bulk of the job cuts come from the county clerk and the sheriff’s office which are the county’s two largest departments.

Some of the jobs that are being eliminated have been vacancies that were left open in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Updegrove said 19 county workers have opted-in to an early retirement program that will create savings of about $335,000 in 2021. 

Funding from the CARES Act will reduce the county’s Medicaid costs by $2.3 million. Health insurance expenses for county employees are expected to be reduced by $1 million.

The county legislature is slated to hold a budget hearing on Dec. 1 and approval of a 2021 budget is set for a legislature meeting Dec. 8.

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