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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 4, 2010

New Scotland plans $6.7M budget

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — A salary schedule, years in the making, slid into place just before the town board adopted a preliminary budget for 2011.

The $6.7 million spending plan for next year includes a 3-percent tax-rate increase due partly to lower-than-average revenues from sales tax, which first dipped in 2009 and aren’t expected to recover in the coming year.

Town workers made clear their desire for a salary scale during last year’s budget negotiations and the town board assured them that it would address the issue before this fall.  Last month, the board adopted a scale with five pay grades for each job.

The town board also adopted a new system for awarding longevity payments, which, essentially, doubles those previously given.  Councilwoman Deborah Baron, who had worked on a proposal to restructure those payments, cast the lone dissenting vote, since she felt strongly that longevity payments shouldn’t begin until 10 years of employment had passed and that employees who had worked for the town for 20 years or more should be rewarded more generously.

The longevity arrangement, as adopted, awards $500 to those who have worked for five years, $750 to those who have worked 10 years, $1,000 to those who have worked 15 years, $1,250 to those who have worked 20 years, and $1,500 to those who have worked more than 25 years.  The change in the amount of longevity payments adds about $7,500 to the 2011 budget, Supervisor Thomas Dolin said this week.

Integrating the new salary scale, which features a five-tiered ladder on which employees can climb based on their level of proficiency in a given job, will add about $20,000 to the coming year’s budget.

Since just about all employees will be getting more money due to the new salary scale and longevity plan, the town hasn’t included cost-of-living increases in the budget, Dolin said.

The biggest challenge in putting together the 2011 budget, Dolin said, was coping with the loss in expected sales-tax revenue, which comes from the county and is distributed to municipalities based on population.  The last year that Dolin considered normal for sales tax revenue was 2008, which brought in $1.9 million to the town, and the 2011 budget anticipates about $1.7 million.

“It’s been tough for all towns that rely on sales tax,” Dolin said, adding that he hopes it rebounds.

In addition to facing fewer revenues, the town will have to pay $67,000 more in pension contributions than the previous year, Dolin said.  Statewide, municipalities’ contributions to the retirement system have increased as investments on Wall Street have faltered.

The highway fund for the town outside of the village of Voorheesville is projected to be slightly less than the current year’s budget, at $1.8 million and the town plans to defer payment on a snowplow truck that will cost $182,000.

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