New Scotland proposes $8M budget, no tax increase

NEW SCOTLAND — At about $8.2 million, New Scotland’s tentative budget for 2020 is down about $57,000 from this year.

Due to growth in the town— 30 new homes came online this past year — and the use of fund balance, the proposed 2020 tax rate for all New Scotland residents (including those who live in the village of Voorheesville) is the same as this year: $1.45 per $1,000 of assessed value, said Supervisor Douglas LaGrange. 

Budget workshops will be held on Oct. 7, 15, 16, and 24 before the town board votes on adopting the spending plan at its November meeting.

New Scotland will see an increase in its cost for emergency medical services in 2020, but LaGrange said that, in the short term, the town avoided even higher costs; however, in the long term, the town is looking at serious cost spikes. 

Sheriff Craig Apple recently announced that the county’s emergency medical services would moving to full-time staff and the towns and villages that pay for those services — Rensselaerville, Westerlo, Berne, New Scotland, Voorheesville, Coeymans, and Ravena — are starting to feel those affects. 

The municipalities avoided an even larger increase in emergency-service costs when Apple agreed to kick in another $150,000 to cover costs, LaGrange said. New Scotland avoided a 25-percent cost increase and is looking instead at a nearly 12-percent increase. 

The $150,000 comes from a fund that the sheriff said was derived at least in part from revenue recovered from charges for ambulance calls, according to LaGrange. 

The town’s combined ambulance and EMT costs have gone from about $429,000 this year to an anticipated $479,00 next year, up $50,000, a roughly 11.5-percent increase.  

In 2021, the year after next year, LaGrange said, the anticipated emergency-service cost increase could be about 5 percent. “Again, it’s speculative,” he said, because that 5-percent increase is based on the assumption that the sheriff will again kick in $150,000 to offset costs for towns and villages, however, it’s not really an assumption that the municipalities can make because no one really knows

It’s the year following — 2022 — that is of concern, when services could increase by another 30 percent, which is because, by that point, the assumption is that a newly negotiated contract will have brought county EMT and paramedics wages on par with those of other local municipalities. 

For example, an Albany County paramedic currently makes $22 per hour while a paramedic working in Guilderland earns about $28 per hour. Guilderland emergency medical technicians earn $20 an hour while county EMTs earn $14.50. 

As in Westerlo, LaGrange hopes that New Scotland can eventually place the cost of emergency services back onto Albany County. “I’ve got a call in for a meeting at the county to see if we can start moving things in their direction for the budget, in the future — it wouldn’t happen this year; it’s too late,” he said.

Currently, the county employs six full-time paramedics and nine full-time EMTs. “We need 22 of each to fill our shifts completely,” Brian Wood, captain of the county’s EMS, told The Enterprise in September. 

But, to ease the burden on the towns’ paying for EMS, Wood said, “The sheriff is looking to go to 16 each.” This means hiring 10 more full-time paramedics and seven more full-time EMTs.

Wood anticipates this would be a 10-percent increase in expenses.

New Scotland projects its unappropriated unreserved fund balance for 2020 to be about $2.9 million, and expects to drain the fund balance of about $320,000 — which looks like a lot more than it actually is because the revenue transferred between the funds looks like double-counting but is not.

The largest expected generators of revenue are $2.9 million from the property-tax levy and $2.1 million in sales-tax revenue, distributed by the county based on municipalities’ population.

Proposed salaries for the town’s full-time elected officials are about $63,000 for the supervisor; $58,000 for the town clerk; and $74,000 for the highway superintendent. In part-time posts, the town’s two judges would each earn about $28,000 while each of the four town board members would take home about $9,800.

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