Despite revenues budgeted to only increase around $34,000, or less than 1 percent, New Scotland’s 2014 budget is increasing taxes within the politically-touted 2 percent limit.
The New Scotland Town Board on Wednesday, Nov. 13, unanimously adopted next year’s budget totaling almost $7.16 million and holds an overall property tax levy increase of 1.7 percent. Minimal changes were made from the supervisor’s tentative budget proposal, with the adopted plan decreasing expenses around $20,000.
Town Supervisor Tom Dolin said staying within the town’s state-imposed property tax cap was a “struggle” because there isn’t much that can be cut to lower expenses while not effecting town services.
“The increase in the pension contributions and the increase in the health insurance premiums just about consumed the recommended increase,” Dolin said. “We already rely on several part-time employees to save (money), so it is going to be difficult to obtain savings based on retirements or layoffs.”
Expenditures across the town’s four main funds is increasing by $12,370, which totals nearly $5.79 million and accounts for 80 percent of the budget. The remainder of the budget comes from special districts — fire, water, sewer and emergency medical service — totaling $1.37 million, which is increasing $21,200.
The budget drains nearly $334,000 from fund balances, but the town officials are projecting more than $2.59 million will remain in reserves, which is still around 30 percent of its 2014 budget.
This year, the town budgeted around $375,000 from its fund balance, but its four main funds will actually see $146,000 going into reserve accounts, according to town officials. Dolin previously said the town’s fund balances have increased over a five-year period.
Town employees are receiving a 1 percent cost-of-living-allowance salary increase. Town judges will also be receiving a $15,000 salary increase, Dolin said, because their workloads are increasing in April as the Village of Voorheesville closes its court and transfers duties to the town.
Dolin said the town is exploring if there is grant funding is available to help offset the increased cost to the town through consolidation of the courts.
“We think there is some money for this,” he said. “Most of the monies are for studies and planning, but we are actually doing it.”
Town homeowners bear a significant portion of the tax burden at 95 percent, with commercial or industrial property owners covering the remaining amount.
There is approximately $794 million of assessed residential property in the town, and there is more assessed value of vacant land ($39.4 million) than there is of commercial ($33.4 million). The town’s taxable value of land totals $885 million between 4,161 parcels.
Dolin said town officials are interested in trying to bolster its commercial sector.
“We are very interested in some new commercial development,” Dolin said. “We are competing with the new Vista commercial development. We are a participant in that at the very rear, so they might not get to us for a few years.”
New Scotland Democrats have touted blocking “big box” development, and the town recently reduced the amount of industrial zoned parcels. Dolin previously said if the town did get “heavy into retail,” it would likely be forced to provide its own law enforcement. The Albany County Sheriff’s Department provides police coverage for the town. Local municipalities typically see police department costs as its most expensive department.
To view New Scotland’s 2014 Adopted Budget visit our blog post `New Scotland 2014 Adopted Budget.`