Proposed Sullivan County budget up 10%

By PATRICK O’GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 05-27-2024 3:57 PM

NEWPORT — The proposed $42.7 million Sullivan County budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is up nearly 10%.

The increase is driven by the absence of one-time revenue for the current fiscal year to offset taxes combined with the bond payment for nursing home renovations and a 16% increase in health insurance costs.

“In general, the post-COVID world of inflation and workforce challenges (particularly in health care) are the reasons for this increase,” Sullivan County Manager Derek Ferland said.

The budget requires nearly $20 million to be raised through taxation of the county’s 15 municipalities. That is an increase of 18%, or $3 million, over the current year.

Ferland said for the current year, about $2 million in revenue that came from fund balances was used to offset taxes and that is not available this year.

Health insurance premium increases will add $400,000 to the proposed budget. Ferland also said for the current year about half of the $1.4 million bond payment for the $75 million renovation and expansion of the nursing home came from capital reserves. That is not the case next year so it adds $650,000 to the proposed budget.

While the county tax rate differs for each community based on assessments and equalization, Ferland said the projected increase will add $113 in county taxes on a property assessed at $250,000.

Ferland explained that the higher taxes can be traced to a 2009 tax increase that brought in more revenue and allowed the county to use its fund balance for about 10 years to hold down tax increases while expenses continued to climb.

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Two years ago, the county appropriated $1.5 million in wage increases with the expectation of addressing staff shortages, mostly for entry level positions. The county also had to spend $1.6 million to cover hiring contracted agency nursing staff.

Another factor in the budget increase is $1.5 million in lower nursing home revenues because there are about 24 fewer beds available during the renovation project, which is slated for completion in spring 2026.

“We expect that will rebound (and then some) once the project is completed,” Ferland said.

The public hearing on the budget is Tuesday, May 28 beginning at 6 p.m. in the Goodrich room of the Sugar River Valley Technical Center in Claremont.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.