Guilderland adopts $43M budget for next year, below tax cap

— Photo from GEMS Facebook page

Guilderland Emergency Medical Services, which makes up 9 percent of the town’s 2024 budget, is adding a third station and a third shift of workers for peak times.

GUILDERLAND — On Nov. 2, the town board here unanimously adopted a $42.8 million budget for next year, with a tax increase of 2.85 percent over the current year, which is under the state-set levy limit.

Councilwoman Rosemary Centi, after making the motion to adopt the plan — her last budget as she is retiring at the end of the year — expressed surprise and disappointment that no member of the public showed up at the hearing.

“I would have expected questions,” she said.

Supervisor Peter Barber agreed but said, “We put everything we can online … I think we answered most of the questions.”

He went on, “But it would be nice if we actually had some people show up and maybe even clap for our fiscal officer.”

The board then applauded the town’s fiscal officer, Jessica Gulliksen, and also praised the work of  Comptroller Darci Efaw.

Barber termed the spending plan “a pretty solid budget” and explained “for the record” that about 12-percent of a Guilderland property owner’s tax bill is for town taxes.

A Guilderland property assessed at $270,000 will see an increase in 2024 of about $28.78 in town taxes.

In a half-hour presentation on the budget, Barber stressed that the tax bills will look different for 2024, with the general fund, the A Fund, showing a major increase, of 175 percent.

But this is offset by the elimination of three separate lines on the tax bill: for the state retirement system, for election costs passed on by the county, and for the Altamont and Guilderland ambulance districts.



The largest chunk of revenues comes from sales tax, which is distributed by the county to municipalities based on population. Guilderland is expecting 11 percent more in sales tax next year for $15.3 million.

“It does seem to be a consensus out there that we’re not going to have a recession but you never know,” said Barber. “We’ve got a lot of activity taking place in the world. Anything could go south pretty darn quickly.”

The second biggest chunk of revenues comes from property taxes at $13,587,371. The state-set levy limit is $13,686,741. So Guilderland’s spending plan is under the cap by $99,370.

In round numbers other sources of revenue include: Emergency Medical Services revenue at $3 million; parks, recreation, and golf at $1.5 million; other department revenue at $2 million; metered water sales at $2.6 million; mortgage tax at $850,000; state aid at $804,000; federal aid at $720,000; and other revenue at $917,000.

The budget uses $630,000 from the appropriated fund balance.



“Most of the increases in our budget are going to be what people are facing at home, which is the impact of inflation, the uncertainty in the market, utilities, and those sorts of costs,” said Barber.

Retirement costs that the town is required by the state to pay are up by $400,000, or 18 percent, and are now at $2.6 million.

“I think the state comptroller’s doing a very good job of keeping their retirement fully funded,” said Barber. “It’s one of the best-rated ones in the country.”

But still, he went on to call the 18-percent increase “a substantial hit,” noting that the increase alone exceeds the 2-percent tax cap. “On top of that,” health insurance is always going up,” said Barber.

The town has budgeted $151,000 more for health insurance, up 4 percent from this year, for $3.9 million. Liability insurance has increased by $47,000 or 12 percent and is now at $438,000.

Non-union salaried staff will receive pay increases of 2.5 percent and union staff will get raises set by their contracts.

While the budget shows increases in costs for utilities, chemicals, and medical supplies, one that stands out is costs at the town’s transfer station — which is up by $260,000 or 62 percent.

“That’s largely due to climate change,” said Barber. “It’s due to the ice storms, winds, heavy rain … There were huge amounts of debris and brush being brought to the transfer station.”

With the costs “getting close to half-a-million dollars,” Barber said, “there may be an incentive for us to start doing some of that stuff on our own.” Currently, the work is contracted out, Barber said, but he speculated that, if brush were processed in-house, the town could use the wood chips on trails and in its parks.

Another expense is the town plans to hire three more emergency medical technicians and a paramedic “so we can add another shift during the peak times,” said Barber. There will also be added costs for maintaining a third EMS advanced life support station currently being built near the golf course.

Barber noted it was the first new EMS station in almost 35 years and that adding workers for a peak shift will allow Guilderland EMS to maintain an “industry-leading response time” of getting to a house in 6 or 7 minutes from the time dispatch gets a call.

“That is quite remarkable in this day and age,” said Barber.


Additions expected

The town is anticipating several grants that will become additions to the budget, Barber said. The grants will pay for playgrounds at DiCaprio, Fort Hunter, Nott Road, and Volunteer Firefighters Park as well as at a new park, which will be the town’s ninth, Kaikout Kill Park.

Also more grants are anticipated for sidewalks on Carman and Old State roads as well as for a multi-use trail on Route 146 to go from Route 20 to the Winter Recreational Area next to Tawasentha Park.

Other grants are to replace bridges on Foundry Road and on Grand Street in Altamont as well as to paint the town’s two historic houses, the Schoolcraft House and the Mynderse-Frederick House, which is also to get new windows.

The town also expects to contribute to building a training tower for volunteer firefighters; deploying new communications consoles for dispatch; and adding reserves to buy a new life-support ambulance, which Barber anticipates will cost $350,000 and take a year to 18 months to secure.

“We’re also going to continue to do what we can to fight climate change,” said Barber, stating that applications are coming in for the conservation easement program.

The town plans to fund an Environmental Protection Reserve, Barber said, because many grants such as for buying land to protect water resources, require funds from the town. “I’d like to be in a better position to jump on these opportunities,” said Barber.

The town will also add to its parkland fund, with money collected for every dwelling unit built in Guilderland. That fund currently has nearly a half-million dollars, said Barber.

Finally, the town is launching a new, more interactive website on Dec. 6. Residents will be able to lodge complaints and get responses and will also be able to express their sentiments on community issues.



“I call it the piggy bank,” said Barber of the town’s estimated unassigned fund balance, which is roughly $12.3 million or 29 percent of the 2024 budget.

“The total amount is almost $42 million, sitting in various funds,” said Barber. 

These reserves range from $3.5 million for sewer improvements to roughly $17,000 for the Schoolcraft House.

“If the sky were to fall tomorrow … what would you do to fund it? If the stock market collapsed? What would you do if there was another pandemic?” asked Barber. “I hate to suggest these things but you have to be prepared for the worst.”

He went on about the nearby town of Colonie “trumpeting their adoption of a fund-balance policy at 5 percent — that would give you about two-and-a-half weeks’ worth,” said Barbe.

Barber concluded that it was “very prudent” to get money into reserves “and know what’s going to be there for a rainy day.”

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