BY DELAYING HALF of a $208,000 payment to the town for police services and using money from the water and sewer departments to partially fund the salaries of Village Hall administrative staff, the Village Board last week was able to revise the tax levy in its budget proposal to $2,089,829: a decrease of $3,755 over the this year’s and about $125,000 less than a proposal released last month.
Because of the revaluation of properties last year, which brought residential assessments from 82 percent up to 100 percent of market value, the tax rate necessary to fund the levy would see a significant decrease: from $8.14 to $6.76 per $1,000. Since the revaluation affected properties differently, individual taxpayers will have to do the math to determine if this represents an increase or decrease.
But looking at it from the point of view of village budget-makers, the spending plan includes big spending cuts, mostly the result of there no longer being a village police department to fund. (Village residents experienced an increase in their town taxes to fund this: from $2.89 per $1,000 of assessed value [pre-reval] to $3.65 per $1,000 [post-reval].)
The proposed budget comes in at $2,512,751, just over $400,000 less than this year’s.
The single largest change is the reduction of a scheduled $208,000 payment to the town of Saugerties for additional police coverage in the village. Instead of funding the entire payment, the village will pay half, or $104,000, next year, and will pay the balance in the 2012-2013 fiscal year. Since the town’s fiscal year runs from January to December, the new payment schedule will not affect its budget. It will extend the payment schedule, though, so that the village will make its last payment in 2014, one year later than expected.
The village will no longer transfer a large amount of money from the user-fee funded water and wastewater departments to the tax-funded general fund (last year it transferred $405,000), but officials have decided they’ll still use some of the money to offset the costs of administering the operations of those departments. Rather than transferring the money, portions of the salaries of village clerk Mary Frank and treasurer Julie Dunn have been redistributed to those budgets themselves to reflect work they do for those departments.
This year, Frank and Dunn’s salaries are completely contained within the general fund, for a total of $131,600. Next year, $51,000 of their salaries will be paid through the general fund, while $80,000 will be paid through the water and wastewater budgets.
Trustee Patrick Landewe, who questioned the practice of transferring large sums of money from the water and wastewater budgets to the general fund, says this is a fair distribution, and demonstrates better bookkeeping practices than in previous years.
“This is really what I hoped for,” said Landewe. “This is something specific that you can point to as a cost specifically incurred by the village for those departments. I think it’s fair and I support it.”
The budget also contains a less expensive health benefits plan that the village is currently negotiating with the Communication Workers of America. Treasurer Julie Dunn said she is confident the negotiations will be successful. The new plan will save the village between $80,000 and $100,000 next year.
Several items contained within the budget will allow the village to repair or maintain its facilities. The Donlon Auditorium, which sits above Village Hall and hosts the Saugerties Youth Basketball League, will receive a new roof, and the Department of Public Works will purchase a new truck.
“The departments got probably ten percent of what was on their wish lists,” said Mayor Bill Murphy. “I’m thrilled that we were able to give them some of what they asked for and still show a significant tax cut for villagers. I’ve never been more proud, and I think it says a lot about this board.”
While most village residents will see a decrease on their village tax bills, Murphy reminds taxpayers that last year’s revaluation will also have an effect.
“The true indicator would be someone whose assessment did not change,” said Murphy. “That person will see a significant reduction. Someone whose assessment went down will see an even bigger savings, and someone whose assessment went up will see a little less of a savings.”
Monday’s meeting also served as the village’s organizational meeting. Newly elected trustee Brian Martin was sworn into office along with returning board members Jeannine Mayer and Patrick Landewe. Murphy was also sworn in for his first elected term.
The next meeting of the Village Board will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 18. The village will be held in the fire house adjacent to the village offices. The board is expected to vote to adopt the proposed 2011-2012 budget. Copies are available at village hall and on the village website (www.villageof Saugerties.org).