Knox 2020 appropriations drop 15%, taxes remain the same 

KNOX — Knox adopted its 2020 budget at a town board meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 6, which was held a week earlier than normal to ensure that the budget process would fall within state regulations.

“This is the fourth year in a row with no tax increase and we continue to fine-tune the budget, reducing margins in order to better manage spending and increase accountability,” wrote Town Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis in an email to The Enterprise. 

The new budget has a decrease in appropriations from last year’s $2,526,228 to $2,158,054, reflecting a 15-percent change. 

The appropriations drops are due to less spending in the general and highway arenas. The total planned appropriation from the general fund for 2020 is $976,207, down from last year’s $1,110,028. For the highway fund, appropriations for 2020 total $860,700, down from last year’s $1,124,700. 

Total revenues for 2020, outside of taxes, also decreased, albeit less substantially, with a 7-percent drop to $1,297,785 from 2019’s $1,395,955. 


Employee Salaries

Salaries tend to be a sticky point in budget-building because they are easy to identify and easy to criticize, with increases raising questions of conflict-of-interest, regardless of the proposed justifications. 

In Knox, officials’ salaries overall will increase $2,500, spread out across the justice clerk and supervisor’s bookkeeper. The justice clerk will receive a 9-percent raise from $5,500 to $6,000. The supervisor’s bookkeeper will receive a 33-percent raise from $6,000 to $8,000. 

The deputy town clerk’s salary will decrease 40-percent, dropping to $300 from $500.

Salaries for elected officials will not increase. The supervisor earns $16,672, while the four town board members each earn $4,075. The two judges each earn $10,143. The town clerk earns $13,245. All of these are part-time positions.

The full-time highway superintendent — which is now a vacant post — is slated for $59,070, per the “highway administration” line.

After former highway superintendent Gary Salisbury’s resignation, Matthew Schanz is expected to fill the role; he is now the deputy highway superintendent. 

“If the salary is the reason why you run for a part-time elected position in a small  town, you are running for all the wrong reasons,” Lefkaditis wrote to The Enterprise in an email. “Generally speaking, I don’t support salary increases on elected positions.” 

General employee benefits, being the benefits for all employees except those in the highway department, increased by $3,600, with Social Security/Medicare costs going up to $20,000 from $19,400 and hospital and medical insurance increasing from $33,000 to $36,000. 


Other general appropriations

Knox has no library of its own; residents typically use the libraries in Berne or Altamont. Contracts with the Berne library will cost an additional $350 next year, jumping to $7,050 from $6,700. The Altamont Free Library will receive $7,500. In the past, both libraries have made the case that Knox owes more in funding to make up for its use of the facilities.

An additional $9,500 will be allocated to the equipment line of “Refuse & Garbage,” bringing the total from $10,500 to $20,000. Lefkaditis told The Enterprise that there are two 20-yard containers that need to be replaced.

Five-hundred dollars will be added to the cemeteries line, bringing the total from $500 to $1,000. 

Buildings will receive $5,000 on the contractual line, bringing the total from $35,000 to $40,000. 

Three-thousand dollars will be added to the contingent account, which now holds $22,000.

The amount allocated for emergency medical and advanced life support services will increase slightly, rising to $107,786 from $106,443.

$4,000 will be added to playgrounds and recreation centers, bringing the total from $10,000 to $14,000. 


General revenues

Property taxes going to the general fund will go from $68,000 to $168,000, but this drastic increase is offset by a $100,000 decrease in property taxes directed toward the highway fund, which will change from $198,525 to $98,525. In all, property taxes outside the special districts remain the same.

When asked about the switch-around, Lefkaditis spelled out two reasons: “[First], the highway fund is flushed with cash, and [second], you can always transfer monies from the general account into the highway account but not the other way around, so beefing up cash in the general fund is prudent and doesn’t tie up your hands.” 

Next year, $445,000 will come to the town from Albany County through sales tax distribution, which is $10,000 more than last year. Sales tax distribution is divided according to municipalities’ populations.

Interest earnings will increase by $1,500, bringing this year’s $1,750 to $3,250. 

Money from building permits is projected to increase to $1,500 from $1,000 earned this year. 


Highway department

The general repairs personal services line will receive $6,000, bringing the total to $163,000.

Contractual bridges costs will be down by $1,500 this year at $1,000.

There will be a substantial decrease in projected costs for machinery, going down to the standard $70,000 after a one-time purchase of a new grader put this year’s line at $350,000.

More money will be added to snow removal on the personal services line, which will increase from $147,600 to $153,000. 

Employee benefits will increase by $5,100, with raises to state retirement and disability insurance. Hospital and medical insurance will decrease from $59,000 to $55,000. 

The only new revenue for the highway department will be $6,600 earned in interest.


Special districts

Property taxes in both the Knox and Berne fire districts will go up slightly to accommodate equal increases in appropriations. 

Berne fire district property taxes will be $24,447, up from $22,146.

Knox fire district property taxes will bew $293,200, up from $288,000. 

All lines for the lighting district remain unchanged. ​

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