APD gets 12K more ldquo Lean rdquo village budget keeps tax rate the same

APD gets $12K more
“Lean” village budget keeps tax rate the same

By Zach Simeone

ALTAMONT — The village board unanimously passed a $1.2 million preliminary budget for 2008. The mayor called the new budget “lean”; it’s just $20,000 more than the current one. The state comptroller thinks future village budgets should get a boost from state funds, though.

Nearly half of the budget, $510,000, will be funded by county sales tax, and about $232,000 by village taxpayers. Village Clerk Jean LaCrosse told The Enterprise, “The tax rate should be the same as last year,” — $2.33 per $1,000 of assessed value. So villagers with $200,000 worth of property will be paying $466 this year.

“I asked them to be more efficient and cut down as much as they can to make it lean,” Mayor James Gaughan told The Enterprise of this year’s budget. “The hardest thing was looking carefully at the budget and keeping it to its minimum while providing the needed services, and they succeeded.”

Still, some appropriations designated for this year’s budget are significantly higher than related costs from the previous year.

Out in force

The largest increase, tacking an extra $12,000 onto the current $146,478 police budget, reflects the extra hours that Commissioner Anthony Salerno anticipated for the coming year, Mayor Gaughan said. The extra funds will help with “coverage of special events, court related activities relating to warrants, and instances where we have to bring in officers to be in court or send them to pick up people,” said Gaughan. “If we have an arrest at the end of the day, for example, where an officer has to stay late to do paperwork during off-hours, that’s where he is estimating the need for the extra money.”

“Commissioner Salerno expects that the money coming in from events at the fairgrounds, for example, will cover some of the additional costs,” Gaughan explained. “Based on agreements made with vendors, we determine what the public-safety needs are, and we are paid for our extra people needed on duty.”  It’s essentially reimbursement for personal services for public safety during special events.

The village received $27,000 in grants last year to deal with drunk driving arrests, which will factor into the police budget as well, Gaughan said.

“This is now an administration that has been around for two budget cycles, and there is a better understanding of how the police operations happen,” the mayor continued. There was previously no subsidizing for work during public events, so the village is taking steps with this budget to look more closely at the need, and consequently, the cost for personnel at these events. “I’m insisting that we do it, and I want to make sure it’s budgeted for and covered,” the mayor said, pointedly. “It’s just better planning.”

Moving on up

The village will also be sending $6,000 more towards personal services for the clerk and treasurer than last year, raising the total to $71,715. The additional funds are aimed at hiring an assistant for LaCrosse, the current clerk.

“In anticipation of my retirement someday, I would have to train a new clerk, and that should take a considerable amount of time,” said LaCrosse. “The search for a trainee for deputy clerk will probably take place sometime during the new fiscal year.”

Another $7,000 will go towards paying for the new village attorney, Michael Moore, who took the position just months ago. “We had, in the middle of the year, the resignation of our previous counsel,” said Mayor Gaughan, “so we have a new village attorney who costs us more money than the last.”

Addressing the $10,000 increase in shared building expenses, Gaughan said, “There’s an anticipated cost relating to a roof repair. Since the village hall houses the police department, fire department, etc., the cost for repairing the village hall’s roof comes from shared buildings.” The increase brings the total for shared buildings to $57,301.

Changing the formula

“It takes a lot of hard work, which was initiated in February by our treasurer, Catherine Hasbrouke,” said the mayor, referring to the crafting of the budget. By May 31, Hasbrouke will have assembled a complete budget to be sent to the office of the state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli.

This year, the comptroller is pushing for changes that could dramatically affect future village budgets.

In a recent report, DiNapoli called for an overhaul in state aid to towns and villages. In his report, the comptroller states that there are 279 small villages in New York State that should collectively be receiving millions in additional state aid.

Mayor Gaughan said that, on a practical level, since Altamont gets such a small amount of money from the state — about $5,000 — DiNapoli’s report makes little difference.

“Philosophically though,” said Gaughan, “I would be concerned because to reduce funds across the board to small places puts a larger burden on them.”

He concluded, “I’d like to have input into these decisions.”

“The current formula for state aid ignores the reality that many villages and towns have surpassed cities in size and provide similar services,” DiNapoli said in his report. “In the interest of fairness, the state’s decades-old revenue sharing formula needs to change.”

The report goes on to say that “the current revenue sharing distribution is based on a formula that is almost 50 years old and an increasingly outdated municipal classification system.”

The comptroller is favoring a revision of criteria for revenue sharing, focusing less on a municipality’s label, and more on the needs of residents, the services it provides, and the condition of its economic condition.

As of right now, Mayor Gaughan sees good things ahead for the village, he said. “I’m proud of the entire budget and the work that all of the department heads did.”

Other business

In other business, at its April 1 meeting, the village board:

— Deferred until next month on formation of a committee on the historic Crounse house. The village and the town of Guilderland bought the empty house from the county with the intent of restoring it for use by senior residents;

— Voted unanimously in favor of the construction of a 2,550 square foot SEFCU building at the intersection of Route 146 and Gun Club Road. [For more on this, look under “archives” at www.altamontenterprise.com, for April 3];

— Voted unanimously in favor of a public hearing, to be held at the regular May 6 village board meeting, regarding John Donato’s request to rezone his Altamont Lanes Bowling Center as apartments; and

— Voted unanimously to appoint Trustee William Aylward as village marriage officer for one year without pay.

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