Preliminary town budget includes 9% tax increase

After years of late budgets, the town of Saugerties has turned in a budget on deadline. However, the first draft – known as the tentative budget – shows an increase in the tax levy of nearly nine percent, well above the state-imposed limit of two percent.

The 2013 budget calls for spending of $11,316,546. When anticipated revenues of $2,339,500 are deducted, the amount to be raised by taxes comes to $8,977,046, an increase of $725,371 over the current year.

“People should understand that this budget is tentative. There will be a lot of changes before we adopt a final budget,” said supervisor Kelly Myers.

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Among the challenges the town faces this year is the loss of $208,000 the village was paying toward the police. The consolidation agreement included these payments during the first two years of the combined force; that period is over.

One result has been sharp cuts in the police overtime budget, Myers said. The town is also saving $750 a month by contracting with Verizon for modems in the police vehicles. At the same time, the town is shifting its phone service to Verizon, bringing the total savings to $1,200 per month.

Still to be determined is the cost of insurance, which is being bid for the first time in many years. The town should also be saving on this year’s premiums through a review of all the equipment that was being insured. Some of this equipment was worn out and not being used, yet the town as still carrying it on its insurance and paying for it.

Over the next month, Myers and the Town Board will be seeking reductions in the budget to bring it into line with the state’s 2 percent cap, she said.

If the tax increase does end up being more than two percent, New York State requires that the board pass a local law to increase the tax levy by more than two percent. While the law specifies that 60 percent of the board members support the increase, this percentage of a five-member board is the same as a simple majority. A change in the town law requires a public hearing in addition to the regular budget hearing.

Councilman Fred Costello said a good part of the increase is the increase in contributions to the state pension fund, which is not counted toward the limit. The budget allocates $684,811 toward employee retirements, an increase of $270,735 over the $414,076 allocation in this year’s budget. “This budget is preliminary, to be fair, and we always change it during the discussion,” he said.

Perhaps the most striking change in the budget for next year is an increase in the supervisor’s salary, which has been $35,000 for the past several years, to $50,000, an increase of 43 percent. During last year’s budget hearing, Myers said she believed the supervisor was underpaid for the work he or she performed.

“I know where we’ll save $15,000,” Costello said.

Myers said last week that the budget is, indeed, preliminary, as she is still waiting for some of the figures that need to be included. For example, the town is seeking bids on health insurance, so this cannot be considered a final figure until the bids are received and voted on. The town is currently negotiating with the Teamsters’ Union, which represents highway department workers, so the figure for their salaries and benefits may change.

Attempts to reach Myers Wednesday morning were not successful.

The amount to be raised through taxes, also known as a tax levy, includes $5,949,283 in the general fund, $2,750,656 in the highway fund and $277,107 for the town outside the village.

Total expenditures in 2012 in the three main funds came to $7,268,303 in the general fund, $512,905 in the town outside the village and $2,700,217 in the highway fund, a total of $10,681,215: $635,331 less than projected for 2013.

Revenues are estimated at $1,789,500 in the townwide general fund, $160,000 in the highway fund and $265,000 in the general fund outside the village. An additional appropriation of $125,000 from last year’s fund balance (popularly known as a “surplus”) will be applied to revenues for the highway department, reducing the amount to be raised by taxes. This represents a total estimated revenue of $2,339,500, just over $90,000 less than this year.

The amount to be raised in taxes in 2013 in the three major funds comes to $8,977,046. Spending in 2012 was $8,251,675, or $725,371 less, a difference of nine percent.

All residents of the town, including the village, pay taxes to cover the library and ambulance corps, but these bodies set their own budgets, and these are not shown in the preliminary town budget.

However, the library budget, passed overwhelmingly on Sept. 6, comes to $599,434. This is included in the final calculations for taxes, as the town collects the tax on behalf of the library.

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