Town budget increase less than 1 percent

Some towns and school districts are struggling to meet the newly mandated limit of 2 percent increases in spending for next year, but Saugerties is looking at tax increases of less than 1 percent.

The proposed Town of Saugerties budget increases spending by just under 1 percent over last year at $10.681 million, compared with $10.579 million in the 2011 budget. The general fund, which includes the village, is projected to increase from $7,169,463 in 2011 to $7,238,603, again about 1 percent.

The total amount to be raised by taxes in these three major funds – the tax levy – comes to $8,251,765, a decline of $37,660 from the $8,289,335 total to be raised by taxes this year. However, the total tax levy includes taxes to fund the library and Diaz Ambulance. These bodies set their own budgets, but they are collected by the town and included in the tax rate. The ambulance and library expenses are not available in the proposed budget distributed last week. Last year’s tax rate also includes a charge for “county public welfare,” which is also not shown in the proposed budget.

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The budget at this point is preliminary, and the Town Board will be discussing it until November. The board must hold a public hearing not later than the Thursday following the general election and submit a final one by Nov. 20.

The portion of the budget that is paid for only by residents of the town outside the village is projected to decline, from $516,638 to 512,905, a decline of $3,000. Likewise, the highway portion of the town tax is paid only by those outside the village. The highway budget is projected to increase from $2.893 million to $2.929 million, or 1 percent. Helsmoortel envisions applying $75,000 of the accumulated fund balance toward the highway cost, reducing the amount to be raised by taxes.

The budget also includes revenue items, such as state aid, various fees, county revenue sharing and so on. These revenues are anticipated to be $1.954 for the townwide budget. Estimated revenues for the town outside the village come to $246,200, leaving $266,705 to be raised by taxes, and highway revenues – interest and state aid – total $154,500. Taking into account the use of $75,000 of the fund balance to offset part of the highway costs, the town would have to collect $2,700,217 in taxes for highway maintenance and repair.

The ambulance corps budget was $1.195 million for 2011. However, the ambulance corps projected earnings at $653,500, leaving $541,515 to be made up in taxes. The library operating budget for 2011 was $535,735, of which $494,471 was to be made up with taxes. The capital project repayments were $464,188 this year. Next year’s payment of $464606 is shown in the budget.

Supervisor Greg Helsmoortel said the town does not determine the budgets for the library or ambulance corps, and they have not yet been submitted.

This budget will undoubtedly be cut in some areas, possibly increased in others, but compared to previous years and some surrounding municipalities it is a lean budget.

One area of savings is a freeze on the salaries of all elected officials. Helsmoortel noted that the early version of the budget distributed to board members shows an increase for judges, this is an error, he said. Town board members have earned $10,000 each since at least 2008 – ass far back as the budget document goes. The supervisor’s salary has been $35,000 over the same time period.

The budget is further complicated by the fact that assessments are being recalculated regularly, the town’s accountant, Gary Newkirk, said. In general, assessments have gone down townwide, though in some areas they may be higher – the process involves comparing actual sales to assessments and then adjusting the rates. The average assessment across all properties in town is down from $220,614 to $213,871. That means that the rate per $1,000 must increase slightly to bring in the same revenue.

For a town taxpayer with a house at the average assessment this year, the tax rate would increase from $4.75 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $4.89 per $1,000 – or a total of $1,047.39 this year, declining to $1044.76 next year, not including the library, ambulance and special districts. For a village resident, the tax bill would show a slight increase, from $623.90 to $624.50.

These tax rates do not include the various special districts. In fact, Newkirk said, “you could almost think of each resident as having a different tax levy.”

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