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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 2, 2008

Taxes up a penny
Runion proposes $31 M budget

By Saranac Hale Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Next year’s proposed town budget includes the first tax-rate increase in the nine years that Supervisor Kenneth Runion has been preparing Guilderland’s spending plan, he said.

The proposed rate is 26 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value for the $30.6 million budget, a penny increase over last year.

 “This will be a rather sleek budget this year,” Runion, a Democrat, said as he presented the budget to the town board last week.  Yesterday, Republican Councilman Warren Redlich said that he’d like to cut about $100,000, although he’s not yet sure from which lines.

The $30.6 million total includes two sewer districts and four water districts.

The budget proposal calls for using $1.6 million from the town’s fund balance; receiving $18.3 million in revenues, largely from sales tax; and collecting $10.8 million in property taxes.

The biggest challenge in constructing next year’s budget, Runion said, was “trying to anticipate what this economy is going to do.”  The “unpredictability of fuel costs” has been one of the larger stumbling blocks, he said, citing a 35-percent increase in fuel.  “It’s that uncertainty that impacts all the way through,” he said.

Dennis Moore, the town’s director of parks and recreation, installed a stove that runs on either corn or pellets in the building that houses his office, across from Tawasentha Park.  It’s a hard building to heat, said Runion, who put a similar stove in his own home recently.

Fees increase

Moore operated a PowerPoint presentation on Sept. 23 as Runion explained the budget process and compared the town’s tax rate to the school’s and county’s rate during the televised meeting.  It was a good means to explain the process to residents, he said, adding that nearby mayors had been using the technology for budget presentations recently.

“It’s a balancing act,” he said of making the budget.  This year, the town plans to increase fees for some services, he said.  The price of a trip to the dump will go up a dollar; building permit and inspection fees, the cost of renting pavilion, and fire inspection fees will go up, probably by about 20 percent, he said.  They haven’t gone up in the last five or six years, Runion said. 

“The theory is, fees affect the utilizer of the service,” he said, which takes the burden off of the taxpayer.  “They’re not large dollar amounts,” said Runion of the increases, but there are enough of them across the board to offset costs.

Closed captioning for the deaf and hard-of-hearing is one service that the town might add in the coming year, according to Runion.  In March, the board had discussed the possibility of providing closed captioning on its televised meeting, but concluded that it would be expensive.  At the time, Runion estimated that the equipment could cost as much as $60,000 plus the hourly cost of the service. (See www.altamontenterprise.com archives for Feb. 14, 2008 and March 4, 2008 for coverage.)

Today, Runion is meeting with Virtual Town Hall, which handles Guilderland’s website, to discuss the possibility of web-casting the town’s meetings.  That service would cost about $5,000 a year, Runion estimated, and, if the town were to add closed captioning to the web casts, rather than the television broadcasts of meetings, it, too, will be charged at an hourly rate.

“It’s the wave of the future,” he said.  “I think the web-casting is a real strong possibility for 2009.”

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