The tentative town budget for 2013, prepared by Woodstock supervisor Jeremy Wilber, proposes to increase combined spending for the general and highway funds, to which all taxpayers contribute, by about $100,000, which would raise the tax levy for that portion of the ledger by 0.33 percent.
Wilber presented the tentative budget at a special meeting of the Town Board on October 5. The board will review, and may modify, the proposed spending plan as the budget advances from “tentative” to “preliminary” form. The board must adopt a final budget by November 20.
Meanwhile, the tentative budget’s 0.33 percent tax hike falls well below the state’s 2 percent cap on property tax increases. The town’s total taxable value, as cited in the tentative budget, is approximately $1.28 billion. The tax increase in the proposed budget amounts to 8 cents per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value, as compared to the 2012 levy.
Even when budget calculations include the town’s special districts — the water, sewer, lighting, and garden lighting districts, which are funded only by taxpayers who receive their services — the resulting tax increase, 0.37 percent, comfortably complies with the state-mandated cap. The 2012 town budget, adopted by the previous Town Board, increased taxes by more than 6 percent despite steep spending cuts from the previous year. In order to approve the budget, the board passed a local law that overrode the state tax cap.
Public hearings on the proposed budgets for the various special districts will take place beginning at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 23, at the Community Center. A public hearing on the overall budget will be held at a later date, when the budget has reached the preliminary stage. The budget can be viewed on the town’s website, woodstockny.org.
General fund expenditures would total $4.52 million, up about $42,500 from the current year, while appropriations for the highway fund would amount to $1.95 million in 2013, an increase of about $62,000 from 2012. Combined spending for the two funds would thus total approximately $6.47 million, of which $5.08 million—an increase of slightly less than $17,000 from the current year—would be raised through taxes.
Factors contributing to the proposed rise in general fund spending include a two-stage pay raise for town employees and elected officials, whose salaries would increase by 1.5 percent on January 1, 2013, and again, by the same percentage, on July 1 of next year. In a budgetary context, according to Wilber, the full increase of 3 percent does not take effect until the beginning of 2014; consequently, the 2013 budget incorporates a raise of only 2.25 percent. Employees and elected officials have not received a raise since 2010.
The general fund includes an appropriation of $61,000 (up about $27,000 from 2012) for Woodstock’s share of so-called Safety Net costs. The statewide Safety Net program provides welfare-type assistance at the municipal level to residents in need. Woodstock’s contribution will increase in the years ahead, following a shift in the program’s funding structure whereby taxes will be paid directly to the county rather than the local government.