Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus released his proposed $816 million operating budget for fiscal year 2020 last Wednesday. The County tax rate will be $3.73, which is lower than it was both last year in 2014.
Neuhaus delivered his budget presentation at the County’s Emergency Services Center in front of members of the County Legislature, County employees, representatives of the business community, and the public. The 2020 Executive Budget stays within the tax cap.
“We have grown our fund balance back to where it needs to be, settled labor contracts, repaired roads and bridges, and invested in our parks.” Neuhaus said. “I am proud of the hard work of County employees and that independent auditors and Moody’s have validated the financial choices we have made. The best way to continue to reduce the tax rate, while balancing millions of dollars of State imposed mandates, is to work with the private sector to create economic opportunities. Safe communities, more jobs, and working to lower the County tax rate remain my priorities.”
The County’s finances have been stabilized during Neuhaus’ six years in office even while settling union contracts, re-opening long closed bridges, making highway safety improvements, and dramatically expanding tourism related initiatives.
Additional highlights of the 2020 proposed budget include:
• The County’s unassigned fund balance has increased to $56.7 million, which is an increase of $6.4 million from last year. The County’s fund balance has more than doubled since Neuhaus took office, back to State recommended levels.
• Tourism generated $91.5 million in local taxes last year in Orange County and $56.7 million in state taxes in 2018.
• Moody’s Investors Service, the financial services ratings company, upgraded Orange County’s bond rating to Aa2 with a stable outlook, from the lower Aa3. Moody’s specifically credited Neuhaus and the County Legislature’s success in rebuilding the County’s fund balance.
• Sales tax revenue has increased 1.4 percent from $127,936,025 in 2018 to $129,732,200 so far this year, with the highest spending season approaching.
• The Office of the State Comptroller recently notified Orange County that its fiscal stress score continues to decrease, another third-party financial indicator.
• The County will budget $4.4 million in 2020 for hotel occupancy tax, an increase of $1.3 million from 2014. The County has aggressively pursued tourism initiatives as a result of Neuhaus’ focus on tourism and economic development.
• Safety initiatives proposed include a school bus camera program and two emergency services programs called RAV and RapidSOS. All of these will enhance the safety of County residents.
“Orange County’s budget has been prudently balanced since County Executive Neuhaus took office,” said Steve Brescia, Chairman of the Orange County Legislature. “The County Executive faced challenges with unfunded mandates from Albany; but has still delivered a balanced budget that maintains essential services to residents. We look forward to the Legislative review process and the adoption of the 2020 budget.”