The Town of Ballston’s preliminary budget, released Monday, Oct. 4, includes a new highway taxing district that Joe Whalen, the town’s highway and water superintendent, opposes.
It was a very difficult budget year. You see the cities around us and the problems they’re having with their budgets as well, and the economic climate is not conducive to easy budgeting, said Ballston Town Supervisor Patti Southworth.
She said she `tried everything` she could to not institute a highway tax.
`You can only cut the budget so much,` said Southworth.
According to Southworth, the town’s highway department works differently from highway departments in other municipalities.
`Anyone who lives outside the village would have to pay toward the highway tax, and that would be based on your assessment, just like everything else,` said Southworth. `When I was trying to decide what to do when the town passed the highway tax, it didn’t seem like we should put a tax on the people in the village who are already paying into the village system for their highway systems.`
People in the highway district will be taxed at a rate of approximately $100 per $100,000 of assessed property value.
`In tough times, every little penny is going to hurt, and I’m very conscious of that, but at the same time, we have to run our highway department,` said Southworth, who said she was working directly off of the budget Whalen handed into her. `He’s the one who does the job and knows what funds he needs to provide quality work and safety.`
Whalen said the creation of a taxing district took him by surprise.
`When I got it in my hands, I thought it was a misprint,` said Whalen.
He said that he’s still trying to figure out why the town needs a highway tax.
`I don’t see where [the highway budget] has fallen behind. I know, as the highway superintendent, that in the last eight years I’ve always had money left over at the end of the year,` said Whalen.
He said he has used that surplus to help carry operations into January and February of the following year.
`We totally run on the county sales tax, and with me doing what I would do ` running only money and carrying it over into one-half of the following year ` it helped operations. I’ve done that every year, and it appears there is going to have $50,000 around this year,` said Whalen.
Whalen said that he’s always held the line on taxes and has ended the year with extra money in the budget.
`I’ve held the line on the preliminary budget,` said Whalen of the budget he turned into Southworth. `It was $3,000 less than last year.`
Southworth said that sales tax revenue for the county was down 13 percent this year. For the 2010 budget she took the sales tax level and budgeted it to be 15 percent less than the total sales tax revenue they’re projected to see coming in for the year.
`I would rather be more conservative. If we get extra funds, that’s wonderful, rather than being overly optimistic and see budget shortfalls,` said Southworth. `Maybe the board will see things that I didn’t see. That’s what the budget workshops are for.`
She added she thinks the budget in general will be contentious this year.
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