Photo by Morgan Frisch
Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead gives his State of the County address Friday at the Hales Mills Country Club.
By MORGAN FRISCH
Fulton County Express
JOHNSTOWN — Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead described 2017 as the year of infrastructure during his 24th annual State of the County address Friday, but didn’t forget to mention the hefty state mandates looming above the region.
Approximately 100 people attended Stead’s speech at the Hales Mills Country Club.
He started the morning by stating his concerns about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $162 billion budget for 2017-18.
“Unfortunately, I have to come back to that topic of mandates,” he said. “This new budget certainly has some ramifications and is headed in a direction that I think raises some concern for county government and probably for local governments as well.”
Stead said additional programs are starting to create unbearable budget deficits but wanted to “debunk” the deficit blame on local spending. Stead said 81 percent of the county budget emanates from state mandates, leaving 19 percent for services and programs within the county.
“It’s ludicrous to go out and blame that 19 percent of local costs for the high property taxes when New York state mandates represent 50 to 100 percent of what you are paying,” he said.
Stead further discussed the governor’s talk of shifting some costs back to local governments which would cause an increase in property taxes.
“Will the real property tax culprit please stand up?” Stead asked.
A picture of Cuomo then appeared on the screen behind him. At the county level, Stead said he wants to portray the picture of financial stability. The county budget is approximately $97.3 million. Of that, about $70 million is in revenue and an average county tax rate of $9.99. Stead said that’s a 1.58 decrease from the previous year.
“[The goal is to] lower local property tax burden,” he said. “That has to be one of the goals for this region and that’s why you hear me talk so feverishly and with such concern about state budgets to begin moving those state costs back onto the property tax. There is no way for regions like ours in upstate New York to do better.”
Stead also described the future of Fulton County and initiatives currently underway.
The Smart Waters project is coming to fruition with infrastructure expected to make way at the Hales Mills development site this year. Stead spoke highly of the project, stating that it will hopefully push development in the next two years. Other Jumpstart Fulton County projects like the Vail Mills development area and Tryon Technology Park were high on Stead’s list for 2017.
“We believe we have to do a hard push for economic growth if we are going to survive as neighbors to the capital region and the Hudson Valley,” he said.
One of the county’s major concentrations is developing another shovel ready site in the Tryon Technology Park as well as marketing the region with the Fulton County NY POSITIVE Campaign and new mascot “PLUS”.
“We need people to know that things are going on in Fulton County,” Stead said.
During the speech, he described the county’s vision for 2026 which included making the county an extraordinary place to live with an enviable quality of life; continuing to build a strong economy and stable tax base; connecting healthy communities to nature; as well as bold leadership and progressive planning.
Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce President Mark Kilmer said he’s never seen such a drive to move forward like he has in the past six or seven years.
Following the speech, Gloversville 4th Ward Supervisor Charlie Potter said that the main objective was to press forward with all the positive from 2016.
“Think about it as business owners, as leaders in our community, as leaders in our government think about it,” Stead said. “I want you to think as you go today and say I heard that message, I understand where Fulton County’s going, I understand what they’re trying to do. I want you to say, take me with you.”