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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 30, 2008

Town strives for $5.6M pay-as-you-go budget

By Jo E. Prout

NEW SCOTLAND — The town board approved a preliminary $5.6 million budget this week, offering town employees raises while trying to keep its fund balances intact.

A public hearing on the spending plan will be held on Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Wyman Osterhout Community Center in New Salem.

The town’s general fund will see a 2-percent increase, said Supervisor Thomas Dolin. He said that the small hike decreases the amount of money to be taken from the reserve fund.

“Our goal next year is to use zero dollars” from the town’s general fund reserves, he said.

“The board’s goal is to achieve a pay-as-you-go budget,” Dolin said. “We want to stop having to invade our reserve funds to balance the budget.” He said that this approach to the budget began last year, and that the system is in transition.

“The goal is to stop having to rely on the [reserve funds]. Some are getting dangerously low,” he said. “We’re probably halfway there. We did not invade the B Fund at all. No reserves were used to balance the B Fund.”

The B Fund is the general fund for the entire town outside the village of Voorheesville. The tax rate for the B Fund will not be raised at all, according to Lisa Boehlke, the confidential secretary bookkeeper for the town, who presented the budget to the town board. The tax rate will stay steady at 18 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

The highway fund for the town, coded DB, does not include the village because the village has its own highway department, Dolin said.

“They shouldn’t pay for both,” he said of village residents. “The town taxpayers don’t pay toward the village.”

The town-only highway fund will see a tax rate of .28962 per $1,000 of assessed value. The rate is an increase from 9 cents to 29 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, Dolin said. For a home assessed at $250,000, the 2009 tax would be a $50 increase over last year, he said. 

Dolin said that the town board plans to stop using the town-only highway fund reserves over a three-year period.

“We want to gradually eliminate the need to do that,” he said.

The rate increase for the town-only fund is a low amount in real numbers, he said. The $50 increase for the average-priced home would decrease the use of the fund balance by $66,000, board member Douglas LaGrange said at Tuesday’s budget workshop.

Board member Deborah Baron suggested then that town employees other than the highway department receive a 3-percent increase in salary.

“Three-percent is respectable,” she said. Baron suggested an additional 1-percent increase, for a total of 4-percent, for highway department employees, or “the people in the work boots, who go out in the weather.”

Baron said that the last time town employees received a raise in salary was in 2005, when they received a 2-percent raise.

The board said that, although the cost of living had risen, the tax rates to cover salary increases should be considered.

“Our folks are in the same position as [other] workers,” Dolin said. “It’s a tightrope.”

“I guess I agree with Debbie,” LaGrange said about the salary increase.

“That’s how I feel,” said board member Peg Neri.

About the salary increase, Dolin told The Enterprise, “I think we’re being cost-conscious, and yet fair to the employees. We’re trying to recognize the burden on the tax-payers, but still recognize that our employees are also facing rising costs.”

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