LYONS — The Wayne County Board of Supervisors annually debates just how much of its ample surplus funds will go toward underwriting its budget, and that is no exception this year.
In a session that followed the supervisors’ regular meeting Tuesday, members got an overview of the proposed $149.9 million budget for 2020 by Ken Blake, a fiscal assistant in County Administrator Rick House’s office.
While a detailed budget has yet to be unveiled, Blake and House wanted to get a sense of where supervisors want to go regarding how the 2020 spending plan will be paid for.
The proposed budget would spend $4.7 million more than 2019, marking a 3.2 percent increase.
Under tentative numbers, the tax levy would rise $1.1 million, or 2.72 percent in 2020 — from $40.4 million to $41.5 million.
However, in order for the county to achieve those numbers and be under the state tax cap for 2020, Blake said $5.53 million will need to be pulled from the county’s general fund balance — or $463,103 more than last year’s $5.1 million figure. That would be a 9.1 percent increase. The tax rate would drop from $7.90 in 2019 to $7.82 under this scenario.
The current fund balance of $52 million would drop to $46.5 million, if supervisors approved pulling the $5.53 million from the fund balance to make up for the revenue shortfall.
On the bright side, Blake said the county is ahead on estimated sales tax revenue for 2019 and is projecting to take in an additional $500,000 in 2020. That’s in addition to the state withholding $664,000 for the state’s Aid and Incentives for Municipalities program, which transferred earlier this year from a state distribution to one counties must shoulder. The money to pay for AIM is slated to come from increased internet sales tax revenue.
However, said Blake, sales tax collections could go up another $500,000 for the county and $100,000 for towns and villages if supervisors eliminate the county’s sales tax exemption of clothing purchases up to $110. If that exemption was eliminated, the county could reduce its fund-balance appropriation to a level slightly lower than the current budget.
The possibility of removing that exemption drew mixed reaction from supervisors.
Some believed the exemption was an incentive for people to shop at Wayne retailers, while others argued that no other counties adjacent to Wayne offer the tax discount.
The exemption only applies to the county’s half of the sales tax, which is 8 percent.
Rose Supervisor Kenan Baldridge and board Chairman Steve LeRoy of Sodus believe the exemption is good for county retailers.
Others aren’t sure the exemption, in effect for some two decades, is necessarily an incentive because some supervisors don’t think shoppers are even aware of it.
“I don’t think it’s advertised enough,” said Huron Supervisor Laurie Crane.
If supervisors opt to drop the exemption, the change would take effect March 1, said County Treasurer Patrick Schmitt.
Another alternative to pulling less money from surplus funds would be to exceed the tax cap by some unspecified amount, but no supervisor appeared supportive of that scenario.
Supervisors in previous years had a straw vote to provide Blake and House with a direction of where to go on revenues, but they had no such informal polling Tuesday.
Baldridge said the county should go with Blake’s suggestion of pulling $5.53 million from the fund balance to make up for the revenue shortfall.
“I wouldn’t mess with it,” he said.
The matter will now go before the supervisors’ Finance Committee and then before the full board next month, House said.
“We’re really pushing the (time) limit,” House said after the meeting, noting that the tentative budget must be delivered by Nov. 15.