Assessor gets 40 hours

Town’s $31 million budget in place by default

GUILDERLAND — The supervisor’s preliminary $31 million budget, which allows no pay raises, will become the final budget for 2011, by default.

Though the town board voted on a proposed budget change at the Nov. 16 meeting, it did not vote on the budget itself. The $31 million budget will leave tax rates steady at 26 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

At a meeting on Nov. 4, the board voted 3-to-2 not to adopt the preliminary budget. Republicans Mark Grimm and Warren Redlich opposed the budget; Redlich said there was a lack of transparency in the process, and inaccurate sales tax revenue projections, and Grimm said he thought the budget was awarding the town assessor a “back-door pay raise.”

Democrat Paul Pastore also voted against the supervisor’s spending proposal because the town hadn’t finished negotiating union contracts due to expire at the end of 2010.

According to State Town Law, changes can be proposed and made to the preliminary budget up until Nov. 20. If the town board does not approve the budget by Nov. 20, the preliminary budget becomes the final budget.

The preliminary budget for 2011 allows no change in salary for employees, except for the town assessor, John Macjeka. Supervisor Kenneth Runion added five hours per week to Macjeka’s schedule, and budgeted for an increased salary to reflect the extra hours worked. In order to balance the expenditure, an unfilled part-time position in the assessor’s office would be left open.

At the board meeting on Nov. 16, Runion proposed amending the preliminary budget to remove the extra five hours for Macjeka, and instead fill the part-time assessment clerk position. The part-time position would be 17.5 hours per week, and would result in more spending than having Macjeka work 40 hours instead of 35.

The board voted 4-to-1 on Tuesday not to reduce Macjeka’s hours to 35, and not to hire a part-time assessment clerk. Grimm was the only board member to vote in favor of the motion to keep Macjeka’s hours at 35.

“He should not be getting a pay raise when everyone else is getting a pay freeze,” Grimm told The Enterprise yesterday. However, Grimm said, even if the board had voted to keep Macjeka’s hours at 35, he would have voted against filling a part-time position.

“I don’t think we should be adding staff given the state of the economy. Runion wanted to add five hours per week to the assessor, or hire a part-time clerk at 17.5 hours per week. The proposal didn’t make sense,” said Grimm. He said he thought the amount of work in the assessor’s office could be handled without hiring someone part-time.

Macjeka told The Enterprise that he thought the hours and salary had been worked out before the budget was drafted, but any proposals were up to Runion, and were not suggestions of his own.

The board did not vote on the budget after voting on Macjeka’s hours. Runion told The Enterprise yesterday that he thought no one made a motion to vote on it because other board members had not come up with alternative budget proposals.

“I assumed, if anyone else had questions or proposals, they would have brought it up,” said Runion. He said he put the assessor proposal on the meeting agenda so that town board members would realize it was their chance to make other budget proposals.

“There is a long history of the supervisor not putting anything I propose on the agenda,” Redlich told The Enterprise yesterday. He said there were fundamental issues in the budget that couldn’t be fixed by making a simple proposal, including the over-estimation of sales-tax revenue and no reflection of the pension fund increases.

Grimm said he thought Runion was “very aware” of the Republican councilmen’s thoughts on sales tax revenues, but that the supervisor wasn’t willing to change the estimates.

“The budget that is submitted should have accurate sales-tax revenue projections,” said Grimm. Runion, however, said he thought his projections were accurate, especially because there was a new census. Albany County distributes sales-tax revenues to municipalities based on population.

“Every time we have a new census, our sales tax revenues increase,” Runion said. He added that the union contracts, which were part of the reason the budget wasn’t approved on Nov. 4, would all be negotiated by the first of the year. One of the four contracts has been settled, with no raises. The supervisor said he has scheduled meetings with the other three unions within the next week.

“Democrats control the town, and they get the budget they want,” said Redlich.

“The preliminary budget now becomes the final budget,” Runion concluded. “That’s it.”

Other business

At its Nov. 16 meeting, the town board voted unanimously to:

— Appoint Steven D. Oliver and Howard R. Haver to positions of highway foreman I;

— Authorize a utility easement to National Grid for the placement of a power pole;

— Set a public hearing, for Dec. 7 at 8 p.m., on a local law titled Animal Control Law of the Town of Guilderland, which establishes the licensing of dogs by the town instead of the state, which has given up the task; and

— Set a public hearing for Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m. on the sewer rate for users of the State Farm Utility Transportation Corporation.

More Guilderland News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.