CHENANGO COUNTY - A new proposal that’s worked its way through the state legislature may bring some financial relief to Chenango County as it grapples with losses incurred by the coronavirus pandemic.
Legislation introduced at the request of the State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has been signed into law. Advocates say the measure will help ease the financial difficulties facing local governments and school districts and give them greater fiscal flexibility amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new law offers financial and budgetary flexibility to local governments and schools by extending the timeframe in which borrowed money must be repaid. What’s more, it allows governing bodies to borrow from other funds within its budget and bypasses the mandate that those funds be paid back by the end of the fiscal year. Those funds would instead have to be paid back by the end of the next fiscal year.
Although this new legislation may come as a relief to counties that have already borrowed money, Chenango County is one of only two in the state not saddled with debt, said Chenango County Treasurer William Craine, and so it may not see the benefits of this legislation that other counties might.
“We’re in a strong financial position, so we don’t believe we’ll need to borrow any money,” said Craine. “But if you’re a county that had to pay two or three million dollars back next year, it might be beneficial if you could push it down the road a year or two because of the lost sales tax revenues and state aid.”
While Chenango County hasn’t borrowed from other entities, part of the new law which allows for inter-fund borrowing may still be helpful in the future. The county started the year with an unallocated $24 million. That’s $9 million more than the $15 million minimum that county officials like to keep on hand should state aid ever be withheld or delayed, said Craine.
The county doesn’t expect to burn up $9 million to recoup losses incurred by the pandemic. In fact, it’s projecting a $3 to $5 million loss by the end of the end of the year. However, should things get worse and unforeseen events take shape, it can now take money from earmarked accounts to pay its bills, and county officials say that could be helpful.