Village prepares to top tax cap

VOORHEESVILLE — The village board last week passed its first local law of the year to allow the board to surpass the statewide 2-percent tax-levy limit as it prepares its 2014 budget.

The board also approved two resolutions about the ambulance service, accepting the Voorheesville Area Ambulance Service’s contract for the coming year, and establishing a public safety vehicle reserve fund to be used for the purchase of an ambulance.

Tax cap

The board held a public hearing last week before it agreed to exceed the tax cap, if necessary.

“We’ve done this the last couple of years,” said Mayor Robert Conway. He said that the village has not exceeded the levy limit before.

The amount to be raised through property taxes charged on the municipality's taxable assessed value of property is capped at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. Villages and other municipalities have the ability to override the cap by a supermajority vote of the governing board.

Conway said that the village has adopted similar laws in the past, but that the village has not surpassed the limit.

“We’ve never done it…with careful budgeting,” Conway said. “It is not our intent to exceed the tax cap.”

“It’s getting tougher and tougher not to exceed that cap,” said Trustee David Cardona, the board’s budget officer.

Superintendent of Public Works Will Smith asked about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s two-year plan for a tax freeze and how it would affect Voorheesville’s potential to surpass the tax limit.

Conway said that the governor’s plan would hold a municipality “harmless” for the tax levy this year. The following year, however, would see residents not receive rebates from the state if their village did not employ cooperative services, he said.

Most municipal leaders Conway has spoken with see no advantage to consolidation, he said — an opinion that Voorheesville has expressed in the past about sharing ambulance services and costs with the town of New Scotland without control over the funds village residents pay for them.

If village services are dissolved, Conway said, the town would take over the services. If that occurred, the town would likely pass the increased costs on to all town residents, including those in Voorheesville, village officials have argued recently.

The village has consolidated some services in the last few years, including sharing plowing duties with town and county crews.

“Where we can save money is working cooperatively with neighboring towns,” Conway said. “Obviously, municipalities have been working cooperatively for years.”

VAAS contract

The board approved a resolution to accept and approve the VAAS ambulance contract for 2014, but is waiting for the town’s response. The village pays 39 percent of the VAAS’s budget, and the town pays 61 percent.

Previously, the VAAS and the village board agreed to an ambulance reserve fund of approximately $7,000 after strained negotiations for the 2013 contract. The village board asked the VAAS to agree to let the village hold the reserve fund for the VAAS in 2014 and beyond.

Last week, the village board approved a second resolution to create a public vehicle reserve fund of $4,680 out of the general fund.

“It’s the full amount they asked for,” said Trustee Richard Berger. “The vehicle reserve is located in this building and not that one, but it’s available to them.”

Cardona said that, if the ambulance contract is not signed, the monies would go toward a public safety vehicle for the village.

No ambulance representatives attended the village’s January board meeting. VAAS volunteers were positive about the upcoming contract in December.

“We’re looking long-term in the next year, the next 10 years, to make sure” patients are attended, VAAS member Ray Ginter said then. “We see the future of the squad is that [the ambulance is] there to serve the village residents and the town residents,” he said.

Other business

In other business, the village board recently:

— Learned that the final session of village court will be held March 17; and,

— Noted that the village engineer is contacting the railroad company CSX Corporation to see what must still be done before a quiet-zone designation can be sought for the village.