New Scotland proposes a flat $7.6 M budget

NEW SCOTLAND — The town’s proposed budget for 2018 at $7,690,289 is up about $44,000 from this year.

The 0.006 percent increase is well under the state-set levy limit.

A recent town-wide property revaluation along with development in New Scotland has increased the tax base so that individual property owners are not paying more, or much more, for the same added services.  

“We had an increase this year,” said Supervisor Douglas LaGrange of the tax base “because our assessed values and growth contributed to that … You can’t always figure on residential growth giving you a tax break, but in this case — because quite often you have to supply more stuff, and in the future we will, we’re going to have to add a plow truck, and a highway worker, or two, to be able to properly service these new neighborhoods — in the interim, the growth has given us the opportunity to back off a little on taxes to our major funds for this coming year,” he says.

For residents who pay taxes into the major funds — which constitute approximately 77 percent of the budget — there will be a slight decrease in taxes.

The current tax rate for all New Scotland residents (including the village) is $1.42 per $1,000 of assessed value; the proposed 2018 rate is $1.40 per $1,000.

Where residents will see an increase in their taxes is if they live in certain special districts, like the New Salem ambulance district, which now pays the county for emergency services, since the volunteer Voorheesville squad was disbanded, or special water districts, like Clarksville, where residents are paying off debt, says Lisa Boehlke, clerk to the town supervisor.

In 2017, the tax rate for ambulance services in the New Salem district is 10 cents per $1,000; for 2018, the proposed rate is 20 cents per $1,000. In the Clarksville water district, the 2017 rate is $1.57 per $1,000, and the proposal for 2018 is $2.04 per $1,000.

LaGrange says the budget increase was due to “the normal increases in benefit districts — they eat up a little of the cap space … One of the bigger things was an increase in the EMS budget for the former Voorheesville ambulance district, and that was because it’s going to cost more if the sheriff is going to do it than if you have volunteers.”  

The town was also hit late in the budget process with a $25,000 increase in its tipping fee; the fee charged by the City of Albany landfill on Rapp Road to take New Scotland’s trash. New Scotland is one of the last towns in the area that picks up its residents’ trash.

The largest generators of revenue are property taxes at $2,779,4651; sales tax at $1,970,000; mortgage tax at $260,000; and $226,110 in state aid for the highway department.

In addition, the town is draining about $53,000 from its fund balance, or rainy-day account. There is $2.6 million left in the account.

Healthcare costs, a traditional budget-buster, have been maintained. The town managed to save by switching health providers a couple of years ago, and creating multiple tiers of health coverage, like adding an employee-spouse plan to the individual and family plans. And retirees, who have a portion of their health care covered by the town, enrolling in the Medicare Advantage program, has saved the town money, too.

Proposed salaries for the town’s elected officials are about $60,000 for the supervisor; $9,5100 for each of four town board members; $56,100 for the town clerk; $71,300 for the highway superintendent; and $27,000 for each of two judges.

“Complicated” record-keeping

The budget is broken into different funds: There are town-wide funds that include, and don’t include, the village; highway funds set up like town funds; fire protection districts; special light districts; ambulance districts; and, water and sewer districts.

The general fund town-wide (Fund A) contains $1,839,048, and covers, among other things, salaries of town employees, town-owned buildings, and ambulance services. The bulk of revenues used to pay for expenditures from fund A come from property taxes.  

The general fund for the town outside village (Fund B) has $2,187,497, and pays for employees’  benefits and garbage services. Its revenues come from sales taxes that are collected by the county, that are then redistributed to municipalities, based on population.                           

The highway fund for the town outside village (Fund DB) contains $1,911,480, and covers highway staff — but not the superintendent, who is paid out of Fund A — workers’ benefits, capital expenses, and equipment. The lion’s share of the funding comes from Fund B, which might appear to look like double-counting of funds, but is not.

Boehlke explains: “This gets a little more complicated; our board has decided to put all the sales tax into the B Fund. The way we pay for our DB [fund] is to transfer what sales tax is needed — to function DB —  from a transfer.”

LaGrange says, “Which is for the highway department, so that shows up as a revenue, but it’s coming out of that $2.1 [million, the B Fund].

Boehlke says, “It essentially looks like — it acts like a double revenue … But the problem with that is, it’s also in the appropriation number. So, it makes our total budget look bigger than it really is, but I have to record it as an expenditure in B and a revenue in DB.

“The reason for that is, we used to put sales tax in B and DB — and I could do that —  but, once we do that, we have to give DB what we say we are going to give it. If I leave all of the revenue in B, it leave the total authority to move that money with the [town] board — not with the budget.

“Say we are going to give DB a million dollars, but it only needs $800,000, that’s all the [town] board chooses to give it. It allows the fund balance to sit in B, where the [town] board has authority over it. Instead of being with the highway department funds, where the highway superintendent has more input as to where that could be used.

“We decided to do that,  we understand what it looks like, but we try to — by the comptroller’s regulation, I have to report it — even though I’m reporting it as a revenue here, it’s also in the appropriation, that I’m going to be sending it somewhere else.”

A guide provided to The Enterprise from the comptroller’s office says that interfund transfers (transferring funds from B to DB) “although included in estimated revenues, are considered a financing source.”

The guide says interfund transfers “should be easily quantified for budgetary purposes,” which, for New Scotland, they are, and “in total, transfers in should equal transfers out,” which they do.

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