Guilderland grants tax breaks for disabled residents with limited incomes

One of three sketch plans from the Guilderland Planning Board delineates a development alternative for the Westmere parcel Christopher Laviano wants to rezone as Local Business. The sketch shows a business in black with a parking lot next to it in white, opening onto Route 20

GUILDERLAND — All four town board members present at their Nov. 9 meeting voted in favor of a local law that will increase the exemption from town property taxes for people with disabilities on limited income.

Town taxes make up about 12 percent of Guilderland property taxes; the lion’s share is for school taxes.

No one commented at the public hearing preceding the vote and the board did not discuss the new local law.

However, in October, when the town board voted unanimously in favor of a similar law to let more residents age 65 and older get a break on their town taxes, members briefly discussed the law for people with disabilities.

The exemption works on a sliding scale with a disabled person who has an annual income of $50,000 or less getting an exemption of 50 percent while someone with an income of $58,400 would get a 5-percent exemption.

Councilwoman Christine Napierski had asked in October about the “definition of a disabled person.”

She said then, “I’ll use my own father as an example. He’s obviously disabled; he can no longer walk or speak. But he’s a senior citizen so he’s not working so he doesn’t have a formal letter … How would someone similarly situated apply for that exemption?”

Supervisor Peter Barber in October said Napierski had a valid point but said the local law had to follow the state legislation.

The local law, under “Required Proof,” says, “An award letter from the Social Security Administration or the Railroad Retirement Board, or a certification from the State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, or an award letter from the United States Postal Service shall be submitted as proof of disability.”

The law is to take effect immediately and applies to assessment rolls prepared on the basis of taxable status dates occurring on and after Jan. 1, 2024.

False statements in the application for the exemption can be punished by a fine of up to $100 and disqualifies the applicant from further exemption for five years, the law says.


EMS contract

Without discussion the four board members approved a collective bargaining agreement with the United Public Service Employees Union for Guilderland Emergency Medical Service workers.

The contract delineates a hierarchy for shift distribution with a senior paramedic supervisor on top followed by supervisor, paramedic, and emergency medical technician.

The basic work week for full-time employees is 12-hour work days for three consecutive days and no employee is to work more than 18 hours straight involuntarily.

A worker is paid one-and-a-half times the hourly rate for overtime pay. Employees can choose to have overtime work converted to compensatory time.

A newly hired EMT in 2024 earns $43,056 for a full-time yearly salary or $23 per hour for part-time work. That increases each year for three years until 2026 for a full-time salary of $45,236 or $24.16 hourly for part-time work.

An EMT’s pay increases each year so that after 10 years the full-time EMT hired in 2024 has an annual salary of $56,160 while the hourly pay for part-time work is $30.

A similar scale, at a higher range, applies to paramedics with a new hire in 2024 earning $56,160 for a full-time annual salary and $30 hourly for part-time work. In 10 years, that 2024 hire would have a full-time annual salary of $76,528.

A full-time paramedic supervisor hired in 2024 would earn $59,155 annually and a decade later would have a salary of $80,440.


Seeking grants

The board, at the recommendation of the town’s grant writer, Donald Csaposs, agreed to apply for four grants.

The funding would come from the Transportation Alternative Program/ Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality — both administered by the state’s Department of Transportation.

“This program has always been competitive, but an increase in the awareness of local governments of the importance of multi-modal transportation formats as a result of the impact of the pandemic has made the interest level in this program grow very significantly,” wrote Csaposs, in a memo to the board.

The town agreed to pay a 20-percent match for any approved projects, which can be in labor rather than dollars.

Applications will be submitted for four projects:

— A paved bike and walking path on Route 146 between Western Avenue and the Winter Recreation parking lot at Tawasentha Park;

— Sidewalks to fill all remaining gaps on the east side of Carman Road from Sunset Drive to Lone Pine Road;

— A sidewalk on Willow Street from Siver Road to Western Avenue; and

— A sidewalk on Gun Club Road from Main Street to the entrance to Bozenkill Park.

Councilwoman Amanda Beedle, who lives in Altamont, and has pushed for a sidewalk to Bozenkill Park was enthused about the application. “It’s been a long time coming,” she said and is “very much needed.”


Hearing scheduled

The town board scheduled a hearing for a zoning change to accommodate plans Christopher Laviano has for 1854 Western Ave.

Laviano wants to change the zoning on a 1.14-acre property in Westmere from Single-Family Residential to Local Business. The parcel is located on the south side of Route 20 about 125 feet east of Venezio Avenue.

The hearing is scheduled for  Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

The Albany County Planning Board reviewed the application in September and deferred to local judgment.

Originally, Laviano had wanted to convert just the front half of the lot to Local Business but he re-did the application to rezone the entire lot.

“Greenery is a big thing,” he told the board, stating the new plan would leave a significant buffer. “I think it’s going to be the best use of space,” he said.

Beedle said she had talked to neighbors of the project who would appreciate it if Laviano would leave trees as a buffer.

“I wouldn’t even touch that back half,” said Laviano.

Councilman Jacob Crawford suggested a hedge rather than a fence would make a better sound barrier.


Other business

In other business at their Nov 9 meeting, the Guilderland Town Board members:

— Authorized a collector’s warrant for the water department of about $731,000;

— Raised the price for demolition at the town’s transfer station from $135 to $140 per ton, as requested by Foreman David Corey. “This increase is necessary,” Corey wrote in a memo to Barber, “to offset the cost of disposal at the Colonie Landfill.” 

The price increase will start on Jan. 1, 2024;

— Appointed Joshua Lyons, Matthew Lyons, and Matthew Romano as police officers and Nicholas Jaeger as sergeant.

Councilwoman Rosemary Centi said she sat in on the interviews and wished “we could hire all of them”;

— Canceled the board’s Nov. 21 meeting;

— Heard congratulations from Napierski for the Democratic candidates who swept the Nov. 7 town elections.

Napierski went on, “Thank you to all the candidates who ran.” She noted that running is hard work and “takes a lot of courage” when running for a minority party.

“I think democracy works better when we have opponents to run against, “ said Napierski. “It sharpens the issues and it makes us all better candidates”:

— Hear from Barber who had listened in on the meeting from home because he was sick with COVID-19. “Thanks very much, Christine,” he said to Napierski who had chaired the meeting in his absence. “Nice job.”

More Guilderland News

  • The 20-student Farnsworth team created He Hika, a city located on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, which uses hydropower, biomass, geothermal, and hydrogen as energy sources. Able to spend only $100, the students built their model of recycled materials.

  • “Guilderland is one of those schools that was historically not fully funded,” said Andrew Van Alstyne, displaying a chart that showed over the last decade Guilderland was underfunded by $4 million to $5 million each year — a gap that decreased with the phase-in until Guilderland was fully funded with $25 million in Foundation Aid this year.

  • On Friday, the library issued a statement saying investigation has shown the problems were “not driven by discrimination based on any protected class” but rather from disagreement “about roles and responsibilities for library staff versus cafe staff,” and that internal procedures would be overhauled “to ensure that future vendor relationships are cordial and collaborative.”

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