Knox adopts $2.1M budget and gains more outside revenue

KNOX — The town board adopted a $2.1 million budget for next year that raises the tax levy less than the state’s cap on increases and entered into an agreement that will bring in more revenues by hosting a faster data-transfer service at the nearby radio tower.

Supervisor Michael Hammond points out that the overall amount of money to be raised in taxes — increasing by 1.3 percent in 2014 — is lessened by the more than $30,000 paid by AT&T and Verizon telecommunications companies, raised each year, for use of a tower in Knox as a site for cell service.

The state-set property-tax levy cap this year dipped below 2 percent to 1.66 to match the inflation rate. Knox was well under the cap last year, as well, with a 1.39-percent increase.

The vote on Nov. 6 allowed the town to enter into a contract for 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) service, which can transfer data more quickly than the previous 4G. According to Hammond, the town will get almost $5,000 each year.

The board also adopted its final budget for 2014, an overall spending plan of mostly minor adjustments based on previous expenditures.

The overall appropriations for the general government-support fund, which makes up about $705,000 in the preliminary budget, will have to be adjusted. Hammond said $80,000 should have been included when The Enterprise noted there is no budgeted payment towards the principal of the bond for the renovation of town hall.

“I’ve got to look into this…That’s been 80 right along forever there,” said Hammond of the payment.

“It’s going to be transferred from the fund balance, which is going to be used to establish that line item,” said Hammond. This would bring the overall payment from the unexpended fund balance — savings used to moderate unexpected revenue changes — from $586,267 to $666,267. Hammond said the total amount available in that fund could be determined in February.

Also acting as a buffer, Hammond said, excess funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency given to the town after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 will help cover some of the costs in the $1.1 million highway fund.

The sales tax revenue line, for money shared with towns by county, was increased from $300,000 to $330,000 in the general fund for Knox. The distribution from the county was $402,896 in 2012 and $416,184 in 2013.

“Really, you don’t have any forward projection on that,” said Hammond of the sales-tax line. “You have to go by what the economy’s doing. Just looking at the past experience here.”

Knox, like all towns, is facing increasing costs billed by the county, which administers poll sites through its board of elections.

“The need to establish a third election district mandated that we had more personnel serve on Election Day,” said Hammond of the change following the 2010 census. From 2013 to 2014, the budgeted amount increased from $8,750 to $10,950.

The full-time highway superintendent position received a 3-percent raise to an annual salary of $55,358, as did the appropriation for the town’s highway workers, who Hammond said dissolved their collective bargaining unit last year.

“There’s a block of money we use for paying the highway workers,” said Hammond. “We’re looking at about 3 percent, but the board is not obligated and has not discussed it yet.”

An $8,000 increase, to $41,000, for buildings in the general fund, Hammond said, will cover the cost of painting the Saddlemire Homestead that houses displays maintained by the Knox Historical Society. Its roof was replaced this year.

Increases were given for the Altamont and Berne libraries, of $500 for Altamont and $1,100 for Berne, which opened its new library last month.

The $500 in the budget for research was doubled, Hammond said, to cover the cost of mailing to households surveys for the town’s review of its comprehensive plan.

Appropriations for Guilderland ALS and Altamont ambulance services had an overall $2,000 increase.

Expenditures for meals for elderly residents were cut to zero in the town’s budget, Hammond said, because the senior meals program in Westerlo, run by the Helderberg Seniors Inc., had closed this past year.

In 2012, the Knox highway fund was kept the same and $3,500 was added to the general fund. This year, the highway fund’s appropriations increased from $1.02 million to $1.1 million. Half-a-million dollars was estimated for the fund in revenue, $409,450 was used from the fund balance, and $204,000 to be raised in taxes.

After a transfer for the debt payment, appropriations for the general town government this year will be about $10,000 more than last year. A total of $255,717 is to come out of the unexpended balance, $475,438 from revenues, and $54,525 is to be raised in taxes.

The Knox lighting district has a total budget of $3,500 with $2,400 to be raised from taxes.

The Knox fire district has a total budget of $270,500 with $269,500 of that is to be raised in taxes.

The Berne fire district for Knox residents has $16,146 to be raised in taxes.

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