$2.6M Rensselaerville budget adopted with  3.5% levy hike

Supervisor John Dolce

Enterprise File Photo -- Noah Zweifel
Supervisor John Dolce looks at documents ahead of the Nov. 14 town council meeting.

RENSSELAERVILLE — At their Nov. 14 town board meeting, the councilmembers of Rensselaerville adopted Supervisor John Dolce’s first budget by a vote of 4-1. Marion Cooke was the sole dissenter.

The total budget will be $2,640,476, an approximately 2-percent increase from this year’s $2,588,513 spending plan. The townwide property tax levy will experience a 3.5-percent jump from $1,338,554 to $1,385,093.

Dolce was appointed supervisor last December after the former supervisor, Steve Pfleging, was charged with larceny following the embezzlement, police say, of over $13,000 from the town. 

Cooke did not respond to an Enterprise request for comment about her vote against the budget, but the night of the vote, Marie Dermody, a former councilwoman who was elected as town supervisor in 2009 but stepped down from the role in 2012, said, “Kudos to Councilwoman Cooke for voting ‘nay,’” before going on to criticize the salary increases in the budget. 

The preliminary budget shows $2,000 salary increases overall for the town council, who each now make $3,500 and will make $4,000. Equal increases will apply to the town supervisor, who now makes $14,500 and will make $16,500; the town clerk, who now makes $34,000 and will make $36,000; and the highway superintendent, who now makes $46,316 and will make $48,316.

The deputy clerk, who now makes $13,500, will receive a raise of $1,500.

Gerald Wood, who also once served on the Rensselaerville board and is father to current Councilman Brian Wood, defended the raises after Dermody voiced her disappointment.

“I was on the town board. It’s a lot of responsibility,” Wood said, before later adding, “I don’t think anybody should object to you guys getting raises.”

Dermody responded that she was not against raises in general, but thought they were too steep. 

“I’m a little bit distraught that all the money we saved by researching different suppliers has been ignored,” Dolce told The Enterprise later. “The money that we have saved in this past year far outweighs the small raises.”

Dolce explained to The Enterprise that the salary increases were planned when Pfleging was still supervisor and said, “The raises have nothing to do with me.” 

Similar raises were listed in the 2019 budget, which Dermody spoke out against at the time.

“Steve knew what the salary was when he ran for office last year,” Dermody said at a town council meeting last November, referring to then-supervisor Steve Pfleging, who was slated to receive a $2,000 raise for the 2019 fiscal year.

Jason Rauf, who was a councilman at the time and is now deputy supervisor in addition to his council duties, said at the time that the high percentages associated with the salary increases did not correspond with the low dollar amounts.

Both Dolce and Councilman Brian Wood support Gerald Wood’s statement that town council members deserve more money for the amount of work they do.

Dolce estimated that, on average, he spends at least 20 hours a week fulfilling town duties.

“Minimum,” he emphasized. 

But during budget season, he said, that number can jump up to 50. By state law, the town supervisor is its chief financial officer.

When asked the same question, Brian Wood highlighted the time that can’t be calculated, which is spent talking with residents who approach him with questions and concerns when he’s away from the town hall.

“I’m on my way to vacation and have spent more than a quarter of my drive on the phone or email,” he wrote to The Enterprise in an email. “I can’t eat breakfast at the diner without having to talk about the town.”

In an interview earlier this month, Wood speculated that low salaries may have contributed to the lack of candidates for elected town positions this year. With four seats up for grabs, all candidates, including Wood, were unopposed.

“That’s part of the reasons salaries are going up, maybe to spark some interest,” Wood said at the time. “With [Rensselaerville], it’s kind of like volunteering.”

The supervisor’s salary in Rensselaerville will be $16,500, making it the second lowest of the Hilltowns, though not by a large margin. In Knox, the supervisor will make $16,672 while in Westerlo the supervisor will make $15,000. The Berne supervisor will be the leader of the pack, earning $19,226 in 2020.

The Rensselaerville town council fares better at $16,000 in 2020 compared to Westerlo’s $14,500, Berne’s $14,540, and Knox’s $16,300. All of the council posts are part-time.

Town appropriations

A new assistant to the supervisor’s clerk will earn $15,000 per year. 

Five-hundred dollars was added to the equipment line of the town supervisor, bringing the total expenditure to $1,000.

Miscellaneous contractual costs for the town assessor will drop from $1,500 to $1,000.

The computer equipment line for the town clerk is set at $2,000, which is its total. 

Legal fees will go down to $2,000 from $3,500.

Elections will receive $10,000 instead of this year’s $12,000.

Two-thousand dollars will be saved on office supplies, which received a 50-percent cut.

Building insurance will decrease from $45,000 to $42,000.

Computer fees will decrease from $12,750 to $8,000.

Contingency contractual fees will go down from $25,000 to $20,000. 

Safety inspection fees will be $2,500 less at $1,500.

The Brookside cemetery will receive $2,700, which is up from this year’s $2,400.

Emergency medical and advanced life support services will receive $6,183 more than this year, bringing the total to $66,215.

Five-hundred dollars more will go to the library, which will have a total town allowance of $26,000.

The planning board is budgeted for $1,000 in new computer equipment.

Contractual costs associated with the planning board will be $1,200, a $500-increase from this year.

The state retirement account will drop from $29,000 to $24,000.


The property tax levy for the general fund will increase from $374,358 to $392,003. Property tax levies going toward the highway department will increase from $768,545.04 to $792,983,00.

The rate-per-thousand-dollars of property value has not yet been calculated, according to the Town Clerk, Victoria Kraker.

Four-thousand dollars is expected to come in through tax penalties.

The county sales tax distribution, which is based on the populations of Albany County’s municipalities, will increase from $375,000 to $420,000. An additional $200,000 of sales tax will be credited to the highway fund, which is the same amount received this year.

Mortgage taxes will be $25,000, up from $20,000.

Less money is expected to come in from highway equipment sales next year, with $2,500 projected, compared to this year’s $10,000.

Highway appropriations

Costs for the operator of maintenance of roads and buildings this year was $165,651. Next year, it will be $168,962.

Road material costs have increased from $185,000 to $188,700.

Costs associated with trucks will go down by $3,000, bringing the total to $20,000.

Hospital and medical insurance will go up to $138,500, a $6,005 increase from this year.

Special districts

Property taxes for homes inside the Medusa Volunteer Fire Company district will increase by $373, bringing the total to $63,373. This is to accommodate an equal increase in workers’ compensation.

Property taxes for homes inside the Rensselaerville Volunteer Fire Company district will increase by $702, bringing the total to 62,202. Workers’ compensation will go down from $10,500 to $10,182. Both these changes are reflected in an overall $1,020 increase in the company’s budget.

Property taxes for homes inside the Tri-Village Volunteer Fire Company district will increase by $2,182. Workers’ compensation will go down from $10,500 to $10,182. Both these changes are reflected in an overall $2,500 increase the company’s budget.

Property taxes in the hydrant district will go down by $2,000 after an equal change in contractual costs.

Revenue from sewer rent will go up by $454, bringing the total to $45,466.

Unmetered sales of water is projected at $44,871.

More Hilltowns 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.