County to take out $5 million loan

Bliss

Otsego County will seek to take out a $5 million bridge loan to ensure it can meet its expenses during the year, in light of financial issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Otsego County Treasurer Allen Ruffles said the county is still solid financially, but the use of a revenue anticipation loan is a safeguard to ensure it stays liquid in a worst case scenario. 

The county’s Administration Committee met Friday, April 17, via Zoom and broadcast to the public on Facebook Live. The committee members unanimously approved the idea of the loan, which will need approval of the full Board of Representatives. 

Ruffles said the loan will cost between $12,000 and $15,000 in fees, plus interest, which he said would cost about $100,000. It would be taken out through the county’s financial advisor, Fiscal Advisors, and bond adviser, Orrick, he said.

Otsego County Board Chair Dave Bliss, R-Cherry Valley, Middlefield, Roseboom, who sat in on the meeting, said he thought the county could put the money into short-term certificates of deposit to offset some of the costs. 

Ruffles said he will have a clearer picture of county finances in early May. The state budget will get beyond emergency spending and a full-year budget is expected Friday, May 1, he said, which will give him a clearer picture of how much state aid will be given to the county this year.

In addition, the next sales tax payment is due to be paid to the county Wednesday, May 6, and will be the first one to show the effects of the pandemic shutdown, allowing financial projections to be made, he said.

The Administration Committee also heard from Eve Bouboulis, director of the Social Services Department, who said she needs personnel in several key departments despite the county’s unofficial hiring freeze.

The committee unanimously approved her department to hire for three positions, which were all deemed essential — two case worker positions and a principal social welfare examiner position. The full board will also have to approve the positions, in order to post the job listings. 

Ruffles has previously told the board to expect as much as a 10 percent loss of tax revenues, because of the economic fallout from the pandemic. Other county officials have said state money owed, either in grants or from funded mandates, is also in doubt.

In response, Bliss issued a hiring freeze and he and Ruffles have asked department heads to make five percent cuts in department budgets as a precaution. However, Bliss told The Daily Star the cuts are not mandatory and several departments with services deemed essential will be spared. 

In addition, the county is reconsidering a $2 million overhaul of its heating and cooling systems, Public Works Chair Pete Oberacker, R-Decatur, Maryland, Westford, Worcester, told the Administration Committee on Friday. Oberacker said he was initially in favor of the overhaul, which was prepared by Trane, but he did not consider it urgent under the circumstances. 

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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