Guilderland homeowners would see their taxes decrease slightly in 2014 under the town’s proposed spending plan, which totals nearly $32.2 million.
The town’s revised preliminary budget for next year calls for a property tax levy decrease of around 1.35 percent, or $153,000, for a total of $11.1 million in tax revenues.
The decrease would be made possible through another $200,000 of fund balance usage, to a total of $1.7 million. The budget also contains a 2 percent raise for union and non-union employees, as well as for elected officials.
“We have the lowest town tax in Albany County and we have been very, very frugal over the years and our salaries … compared with other municipalities, we are always lower,” Town Supervisor Ken Runion said. “We have never had a budget that even came close to the tax cap since that legislation came into being. We’ve made each department hold the line on spending, so we have had minimal spending increases.”
Runion said even though fund balance usage would increase under the plan, over the previous three years, the town has not tapped into what was allocated. He also said revenues are “always” budgeted lower than the prior year.
“We put it in there to make sure we keep our tax rates level,” Runion said. “We are closely approaching the point our fund balances are getting to 50 percent of our budget. If we allow our fund balances to increase too much more, we will be criticized by the state comptroller for having too large of a fund balance.”
Mark Grimm, Republican supervisor candidate, criticized Runion for breaking out pension costs, a practice that began in 2012.
“The most important thing to see about this budget is that Ken Runion split the town tax between two taxes,” Grimm said. “This is very misleading, and it is very important people understand what has happened.”
Grimm said the change made Runion’s budget less transparent, with town taxes appearing to be reduced, because one of the biggest cost drivers was broken out.
“You can’t change the definition of the town tax line in order to cut taxes, you have to really do it,” Grimm said.
Runion, however, argued breaking out state retirement costs made the budget more transparent. The proposed 2014 total tax levy adjustment takes into account all property taxes.
“Taxpayers should know what they are paying for and … what is being mandated,” Runion said. “I think that by doing that we are showing the town residents exactly what is driving budgets.”
To view a summary of the town’s preliminary budget, visit www.TownOfGuilderland.org. The complete budget can only be viewed at the Town Clerk’s Office.