Altamont proposes $2.5M budget for next year

ALTAMONT — The village’s tentative $2.49 million budget for 2021-22 is up approximately 1.1 percent from this year’s spending plan

As always, village officials stressed that the numbers presented at the first budget workshop of the year, on Feb. 24, are still very preliminary — the budget is a work in progress. Nothing is set in stone until after the public hearing, said Mayor Kerry Dineen. For example, increases in retirement payments have yet to be accounted for in this year’s budget, so spending could increase. 

The public hearing on adoption of next year’s village budget is April 6, at 7 p.m.

The tax rate for next year is not yet set. 

This year’s rate is $1.97 per $1,000 of assessed value.

An Altamont property has seven taxes levied on it: village property; Guilderland town-wide; Albany County property; Albany County election; special-use district, ambulance; state retirement; and school district.

For the second year in a row, the board expects levying a total of about $300,000 on all properties in the village. This year, the board levied right up to the allowable state-set limit: $300,093.

The village budget is broken into three funds: general, water, and sewer.

At $1.52 million, the general fund is the largest.

The village has again allocated $50,000 for the eventual demolition of the Crounse House — Guilderland is also chipping in $50,000.

The village’s largest general fund expenditures for next year are expected to be:

— General government support, which includes the one-time carried-over costs like Crounse House and money to fix the brick veneer of the firehouse for $135,000, totaling about $361,000;

— Public safety, which includes police and fire, about $310,000;

— Transportation, or the village’s highway department, about $296,000; 

— Employee benefits, about $168,000; and

— Culture and recreation, about $192,000.

The proposed water budget totals about $409,000 of which about $375,500 is covered by metered water sales, with about $33,000 from the water-fund balance to cover the difference. 

The sewer budget totals about $560,500 of which about $442,000 is covered by sewer rents, with about $118,600 appropriated from the sewer-fund balance to make up the remaining balance (see related story). 

The village is expecting to receive the largest part of its revenue, $585,000, from sales tax. This year, Altamont took in nearly $600,000 in pandemic-stricken sales-tax revenue from the county in 2020, down from $622,000 in 2019.

The village’s other general-fund sources of revenue include:

— About $300,000 from property taxes;

— Approximately $137,000 from fire-protection services;

— About $48,000 in total state aid;

— $38,000 in cable franchise fees; and 

— $20,000 from fines and forfeited bail.  

On the pandemic-front, Dineen said the village has budgeted as if summer camp and other summer activities will be happening this year, but is still unclear if they will actually happen.

“We’re planning to go forward,” the mayor said, “if this is possible.”

However, camp and the pool use might be modified. 

Traditionally, camp is held at the end of June; the park opens for pavilion rentals on Memorial Day weekend; and the pool opens Fathers’ Day weekend. The state signed off on summer camps to be open this year.

In 2019-20, the village took in about $11,000 in park and recreation charges; while during a pandemic-stricken 2020-21, that figure was $0, village Treasurer Catherine Hasbrouck said. 

But Trustee Dean Whalen pointed out that the loss in revenue can be balanced against the salaries that weren’t paid to the employees who run those programs. “So it was kind of a wash,” Hasbrouck replied.

The board discussion then turned to infrastructure.

In Orsini Park, a stamped concrete patio made to look like Helderberg bluestone could be installed. There could also be a reconfiguration of the blacktop sidewalks that cut through the park; the new sidewalks might also be stamped concrete made to look like Helderberg bluestone — but the money would likely come out of this year’s budget.  

The estimated cost for the work at Orsini Park was about $13,000, said Superintendent of Public Works Jeffrey Moller but, since the layout of the sidewalks is not yet known, it could be lower, and whether the village will have the sidewalks stamped is still up for debate. “So, we have some flexibility there,” he said.

Every year, Moller said, $9,000 is allocated for sidewalk work in the village. 

Dineen asked if Moller still had money in his budget to do the concrete work at Orsini Park this year, and Moller said he did — if he could take money from another fund, his “streets fund.”

“The street fund?” Dineen asked. “Meaning the Lark and Fairview one,” referring to money set aside to pave those two streets. Whalen said he was already hearing complaints from residents about the conditions of those two streets. 

Dineen said that the village put in for grant money for the sidewalk work on Lark and Fairview, but Altamont has yet to receive those funds.

The sidewalks should be done first because, if the new road were to be laid before the sidewalks were installed, the equipment used to construct the sidewalks wouldn’t damage the new roads, Moller said. 

Moller also said his department had a lot of work to do on Lincoln Street, to replace a hydrant and “replace a bunch of culverts on driveways,” adding that Lincoln Street was also due for a repaving. 

Dineen asked if the Lincoln culverts could be held off for another year.

Moller said, “It’s either that,” referring to holding off on replacing the culverts, “or we could do the Lincoln culverts now and the hydrant right away and plan on having Lincoln paved this year, and then actually work on the next two years on the sidewalks on Lark and then have that paved.”

Whalen, a Lincoln Street resident, said, other than road patching that is needed, Lincoln could go another year without the work that was referred to earlier.

Moller said, what would probably work best for his department, is performing the culvert work on Lincoln Street, replacing the hydrant also on Lincoln, and the sidewalks on Lark Street. 

“We have a lot of things that need some TLC right now, just because of age,” Dineen said.

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