Knox $2.5M budget decreases by $60K, taxes down 2-percent from last year

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

A resident in Knox dumps cardboard into a container at the Knox transfer station this summer. Costs for garbage and refuse are projected to increase by $22,000 after costs to dispose of garbage and commingled recyclables jumped in the Hilltowns.

KNOX — The preliminary budget for Knox, which was unanimously adopted by the town board on Nov. 7, offers a drop in spending for 2019.

The $2,526,228 budget, which includes special districts, is $60,323.91 less than the 2018 budget of $2,586,551.91. Appropriations for special districts decreased by $15,361, and appropriations for the general and highway funds decreased by almost $45,000.

This is the third budget for Knox Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis. His first budget, for the year 2017, also cut spending from the previous year; the following year, the budget increased but taxes dropped by 2 percent. Those budgets, as does this one, drew large sums from the fund balance accumulated during Michael Hammond’s decades-long tenure as supervisor.

Lefkaditis, who requires Enterprise inquiries be emailed to him — he will not answer questions in person or over the phone — did not respond to emailed questions about the 2019 budget over the last week-and-a-half.

 

Revenues

The budget will be funded by $556,620.06 in property taxes, $573,652.94 from the fund balance, and $1,395,955 in other revenues. About $50,000 less will be used from the fund balance this year than last year. Lefkaditis told The Enterprise last year that the fund balance had about $1.3 million, though not all funds taken from it would necessarily be spent.

The tax levy will decrease slightly, by $15,166, from last year — a 2.6-percent drop — and the other revenues will increase by $7,044. The budget also counts on a $30,000 increase in sales-tax revenues. Last year, towns were warned by the Albany County Comptroller Mike Conners that sales-tax revenue would likely decrease in the county.

The income from grants will decrease by $23,411, and the highway department is not projected to receive the $56,426.40 of state aid or $69,781.23 in funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that it did last year after Superstorm Stella hit the Hilltowns and many of the local governments were eligible for federal aid.

The line item for Knox’s refuse and garbage disposal increased by $22,00, with a $9,000 increase for equipment and a $14,000 increase for contractual items. However, there was a $1,000 decrease for staff and, under revenues, the sale of scrap metal is projected to increase by $1,500.

Garbage was a point of concern in the 2018 budget when tipping fees increased for the Rapp Road landfill last year. This year, the town also saw a spike in costs when disposal of commingled recyclables went from costing nothing to costing $120 a ton before going down to $60 a ton. This was a nationwide problem as China stopped taking the world’s trash.

Last year, Lefkaditis said his renegotiations of workers’ compensation allowed for a decrease of $5,000 in 2018. This year, there was a decrease of $1,900 in workers’ compensation in the general fund and a decrease of $16,700 in the highway fund. It is not clear if this is due to further negotiation or because a highway worker retired last year.

Last year, the supervisor budgeted for insurance-cost increases despite it not going up in 2017, saying the town would need to be wary of increases. This year, there is a $13,600 increase under medical insurance for the general fund, but also a $44,100 decrease in medical insurance costs for the highway fund.

 

Special districts and grants

The Knox fire district is increasing its budget by $5,485. Fire departments in New York State now have to include extra insurance coverage for interior firefighters as required by a new state law intended to assist firefighters that may develop cancer after being exposed to carcinogens in house fires.

For the Knox lighting district, appropriations decreased by $700. Energy efficient light-emitting diode streetlights were installed in Knox’s lighting district this year.

The LED lights were installed as part of a state grant through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

At the Oct. 17 special town board meeting, Lefkaditis said that $135,000 from this Clean Energy Communities grant, which had been budgeted for 2018, has not yet been used and will instead be budgeted for in 2019, under the buildings line item. Another $25,000 has also been added to this line item.

 

Personnel

At the same Oct. 17 meeting, Highway Superintendent Gary Salisbury stressed that wages and personnel should be increased at the highway garage, and also asked about hiring a part-time clerk once a week for the highway department, saying that neighboring towns do something similar.

The 2019 budget adds $5,000 under “contractual” for highway administration. Councilman Earl Barcomb told The Enterprise last week that the $5,000 will serve as a stipend paid to Salisbury for conducting additional record-keeping, but that no new positions were added to the budget.

There is a $490 decrease, from $8,187 to $7,697, under the contractual line item for dog control. After the town’s dog-control officer resigned at the end of last year, the town hired Cheryl Baitsholts on a contractual basis while seeking a new DCO.

The town board hired a new lawyer after the previous town attorney, John Dorfman, resigned at the end of last year following a contentious relationship with the supervisor. Lefkaditis then said the new contract led to a decrease in costs. The line item for law decreased by $4,600 to $16,000.

The planning board next year is allotted $4,750 more, up to $6,250, for the salary for the planning board secretary, which will increase from $750 to $5,500. At the Oct. 17 meeting, Lefkaditis said it had been difficult to hire a secretary and that this would encourage keeping or hiring a secretary.

More Hilltowns News

  • Two public hearings on the proposed facility will be held on March 27: from noon to 2 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m.

  • While the town board will have the final say on the proposed multi-use recreational district in Knox, the planning and zoning boards have already weighed in, with mixed results.

  • The acting supervisor, William Bichteman, cannot vote on the town board but otherwise has most of the powers of town supervisor. Republican council members say they want to leave it this way until voters can choose their own supervisor in November.