‘New Scotland is going to come out of this year very sound,’ super says

— From pavingequipment.com 

Due to the pandemic and two highway-department retirements, New Scotland was able to use money from the state that would normally go toward paving and instead was able to buy a paver for $173,000.

NEW SCOTLAND — A conversation about residents’ physical health quickly turned to a discussion of New Scotland’s fiscal health during the town board’s now almost-weekly special COVID meeting on Friday, July 24. 

Albany County has seen a recent uptick in positive COVID-19 cases, and New Scotland saw three confirmed positive cases last week, while the contact list, the number of people who had been in contact with a confirmed positive, was 11 — both numbers were up from the previous two weeks, Supervisor Douglas LaGrange said.  

Councilman Daniel Leinung said, from what he saw, there was a lack of social distancing and mask-wearing in town around the July 4 holiday. 

LaGrange said that the first six months of sales-tax revenue the town received from the county was down about $120,000 from where it was during the same period in 2019. 

The town has begun an analysis of its spending to project what the second half of its year may look like, both revenue and expenses, LaGrange said. And, in that analysis, New Scotland is using a worst-case scenario of a collective drop in sales-tax revenue for the third and fourth quarters of $218,000. 

LaGrange told The Enterprise this week, “The town of New Scotland is going to come out of this year very sound,” and he was optimistic that, if 2021 were a recurrence of 2020, the town could get through it fairly unscathed, not really having to tap into any of its fund balances.

Despite the sales-tax hit in the first two quarters of this year and accounting for the worst-case scenario in the final two quarters of 2020, New Scotland is “going to come in within [its] budget” for the year, LaGrange said, adding that fund balances won’t have to be used to fill any gaps. 

And while he did offer one particular — paving — LaGrange reeled off approximately 10 other nameless items that were cut this year, for a cumulative pandemic savings of about $320,000.

When the pandemic began to hit in March and the town anticipated a decrease in sales-tax revenue, which funds the highway department, “we decided to put the brakes on paving in a general sense,” LaGrange said, but more specifically, to not use the $200,000 of town money budgeted for paving. 

About a month ago, LaGrange said, the town received a letter from the state that said New Scotland would be receiving its Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) and Pave New York (PAVE-NY) monies as well as the winter emergency funding the state has been handing out recently — all of which totals about $261,00. 

But the letter also said that the town can expect the funding to be decreased by 20 percent, which would leave it with approximately $208,000. The town only budgets for $184,000 from the state so, even with the 20-percent hit, it’s still up $24,000.

The CHIPS money can be used only for paving or paving equipment.

So the town decided it was the right time to use state money to upgrade the town’s paver, which New Scotland bought a used few years ago for $30,000 and which has “really saved a lot of taxpayer dollars over the years,” LaGrange said.

Two highway department retirements this year, along with the pandemic-related delay in general, put the town in a position where it felt it couldn’t safely pave its normal amount of roadway, LaGrange said, so the town decided to do away with the paving and put the state money toward a new $173,000 paver, which should last 15 to 2o years.

LaGrange said it’s the perfect time to buy the paver because it’s not local taxpayer dollars footing the bill; it’s state money that can only be used for either paving or paving equipment.

Generally speaking, LaGrange said, the town should see savings in next year’s budget.

The two retiring highway workers were at the top of the payscale — and another worker is retiring in November, LaGrange said. Highway Superintendent Ken Guyer was asked to put off until September replacing the two retirees, which will yield more savings for the town. And the replacement will come in at a lower pay rate, although the town will have to pay for the retirees’ health insurance.

LaGrange also said “a couple other departments” are losing people at the end of the year, which is another case where replacements could be hired at a lower rate. 

One place where the town could see an issue but has yet to, is its A Fund, which is funded by the mortgage tax, and court fines and fees, which have all but dried up due to the pandemic closing the courts. The A Fund pays for general town-wide government support like the town clerk and assessor. 

During the July 24 meeting, LaGrange said, the town had budgeted about $78,000 in a fund balance for the A Fund this year. And, although the town is still awaiting payment of the mortgage tax from the state, which goes into the A Fund, LaGrange’s “hunch” is that revenue is still going to be solid. 

“Despite all that is going on, [New Scotland] is always very conservative in our budgeting,” LaGrange told The Enterprise this week. “[New Scotland] is additionally conservative in its spending, and it’s quite rare that [the town] taps into fund balances even though we budget for them.”

More New Scotland News

  • VOORHEESVILLE — Gail Brown is a catalyst.

  • On Election Night, three of the four incumbent New Scotland Democrats facing Republican challengers were still facing uncertain futures as a number of absentee ballots had yet to be counted. But the Democrats breathed a collective sigh of relief on Nov. 17 after the release of the absentee-ballot counts. However, the recanvass results recently released by the Albany County Board of Elections should give Democrats pause as they show that Republicans — there are six for every 10 Democrats in town — are becoming more competitive.

  • During a recent public hearing on the village’s proposed local law that would have Voorheesville opt out of both retail sales of marijuana and on-site consumption, the board of trustees heard very little in the way of agreement for its proposal. 

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