Spending and taxes down in $2.6M Berne budget

Supervisor Sean Lyons

Supervisor Sean Lyons

BERNE — Berne’s adopted 2020 budget features an overall decrease in spending by 6-percent and a decrease in taxes by 3.5-percent, an achievement which Supervisor Sean Lyons attributes to Berne’s healthy fund balance, or rainy-day account.

“Priorities were to use some of our fund balance that’s been accumulating over the years,” said Lyons, who explained to The Enterprise that, for many years, Berne operated at a surplus.

Total spending next year will be $2,562,640, compared to $2,725,971 for this year. Meanwhile, revenue, besides taxes, is projected at $1,408,428, compared to $1,204,650 for this year. The lion’s share — $1,064,000 — comes from sales tax, which the county distributes to municipalities based on population.

The tax rate per $1000 of property value will drop from $4.32 to $4.17 — a 3.5-percent change. 

“The entire board did a very good job on the budget,” said Lyons. 

The budget was adopted on Monday, Nov.18. Dennis Palow was the only board member to vote against it. He could not be reached for comment. 

Town board consultant fees will receive a substantial amount more next year with $12,000 listed, as opposed to this year’s $4,780.

Lyons said this is in anticipation of the adoption of industrial-scale solar energy legislation, the first public hearing for which will be held on Dec 11. He explained that there have been “a number of inquiries” and to ensure the town is ready to deal with solar energy companies interested in setting up shop in Berne, the town will need to have money on hand for legal fees and other related costs.

“We wanted to make sure we had a cushion,” said Lyons.

The deputy town clerk, who handles the town’s vital statistics and records-management duties, will receive more than double her normal hours next year, bringing her payout from $3,200 for 5 to 7 hours per week, according to Lyons, to $13,250 for 15 hours per week.

The 2020 budget holds $5,500 less for elections, which this year is listed at $7,500. Senior account clerk Andrea Borst explained that this is merely a consequence of the county’s billing cycle, which is difficult to predict, so the town decided to pull money out from the line and wait until a bill is received before applying money back into it.

The custodian at the senior center will receive more hours next year, bringing his salary up from $3,000 to $7,425.

“People were feeling the senior center wasn’t getting cleaned up enough between programs,” admitted Lyons. 

After the former building inspector, Chance Townsend, resigned last February, the Berne town board voted to split the position between two employees, which raised the total expense for “Public Safety” from $187,394 to $257,424. Lyons explained that this is because the new employees need training, in addition to minor increases in various line items.

An overhaul to Berne’s street lighting has $70,000 in a line item that typically holds around $12,000. By spring of next year Berne hopes to have all its street lamps replaced with light-emitting diode lamps, which will cost much less over time.

“We’re projected to spend $6,500 a year on lighting after this project is complete instead of $12,000,” said Lyons. 

According to Councilman Joel Willsey’s monthly report at the Nov. 13 town board meeting, the New York Power Authority will be delivering draft designs for the lighting system to the town next month. 

Changes in highway appropriations are minor, with the most substantial cost increases seen in “Snow Removal,” which will jump from $292,810 to $311,988, and employee benefits, which rise from $185,927 to $221,312, which Lyons said were standard changes.  

 

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