Sales Tax, Casino Income Help Lower Seneca County Tax Rate

A robust increase in sales tax revenue along with payments from del Lago Resort & Casino are credited with reducing Seneca County’s proposed 2020 tax rate, despite an increase in the general fund.

County Manager Mitch Rowe filed the tentative budget with Board of Supervisor Clerk Margaret Li on Friday.

The budget shows appropriations of $70.34 million, compared to the 2019 budget of $66.87 million.

The tax levy is $9.8 million, the third consecutive year the levy has been at $9.8 million. The tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value will drop to $4.28, the fifth consecutive year the rate has declined. The rate was $4.42 in 2019 and $5.52 in 2015.

Rowe said the budget maintains all current service levels and fully supports the outside affiliate organization budget requests.

Referring to sales tax and casino revenue, Rowe said those two sources represent 41 percent of general fund revenues “and continue to take pressure off the tax levy as a source for providing general current operating expenses.”

Sales tax revenues are projected to increase from $25.4 million in 2019 to $26.4 million in 2020.

Rowe said the budget also includes $2.5 million from the tax reduction reserve fund, a decrease from $2.7 million in 2019.

“The tentative budget supports requests from county departments and affiliates, invests in our facilities and infrastructure and maintains county services at current levels. It also allocates $250,000 in gaming revenue sharing to be utilized as the board sees fit,” Rowe said. “That said, the board will need to make final decisions in the coming month related to facility improvements and capital funding.”

The board is debating whether to renovate the health building on Thurber Drive or move the Mental Health Department into the former Office for the Aging space in the County Office Building.

“I thank all county departments for their work on developing the 2020 budget and look forward to the board and public’s review as we move towards adoption of the budget and setting priorities for the coming year,” Rowe said.

In a news release, board Chairman Bob Shipley, R-Waterloo, said that “at a time when many municipalities are challenged by the tax cap and rising costs, Seneca County is fortunate to have a strong local economy and dedicated county staff who are mindful of the bottom line.”

Michael Reynolds, R-Covert, chairman of the board’s Ways & Means Committee, said, “Three consecutive years of no tax levy increase and five straight years of reducing the equalized tax rate is no small task.”

Budget workshops will be scheduled, along with a public hearing, as the tentative budget moves toward a final budget.

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