Unchallenged incumbents work on budget

Thomas Dolin

NEW SCOTLAND — Though New Scotland had no contested race for town office — the Republicans put up no candidates — more than 1,800 residents still cast votes for incumbents reoccupying two seats on the town board and the offices of supervisor, clerk, and highway superintendent.
The GOP had suffered two election cycles of defeat after a citizens’ uprising over a proposed big-box mall.

The town has 6,219 registered voters, according to the Albany County Board of Elections: 37 percent are Democrats, 25 percent are Republicans; 27 percent are unaffiliated, and the rest belong to small parties.

A large number of those who went to the polls on Tuesday did not cast their votes for local offices.

In the supervisor’s election, giving Thomas Dolin another two-year term, he received 1,128 votes on the Democratic line, 409 on the Conservative line, and 155 on the Independence line for a total of 1,692 votes. The board of elections notes there were 493 “under votes,” meaning the ballot was left blank for that office. All of the tallies in this article are unofficial, pending the count of absentee ballots.

Similarly, while Councilman Daniel Mackay received 1,490 votes, or 46 percent) for a second four-year term, and Councilman Douglas LaGrange received 1,689 (or 53 percent), there were 1,193 “under votes” for that office. There were also 38 write-in votes.

Town Clerk Diane Deschenes received 1,817 votes for an eighth two-year term with 384 “under votes” and Highway Superintendent Kenneth Guyer received 1,808 votes and 391 “under votes” for his first, full, two-year term.

All of them ran on three lines — Democratic, Conservative, and Independence party.

From what I’ve heard, it all went very smoothly,” said Dolin of the electronic voting machines.

What’s next?

Moving forward, Dolin said he was keeping an eye on costs in the town, saying the municipality was preparing to take $330,000 from its district and town reserve funds to help offset costs in the coming year.

That would still leave the town with a total reserve of about $2.3 million, by the end of 2014, estimated Dolin.

He said the amount represents about 45 percent of the municipality’s annual budget, and is far above the 15 percent recommended by the state’s comptroller.

Comparatively, Dolin said, the town was spending up to $75,000 of the reserve in 2013.  In both cases, Dolin said the town was taking more than it probably needed but he said it was easier financially to plan on spending a little more than to have to come up short and request extra funds later.

“I think, in the next two years, we’re going to try to secure some more residential and commercial development to help share the tax load,” said Dolin. He went on, “In order to sustain these expenses, we could use some help from new commercial and residential development.”

Dolin said a part of that goal would include the implementation of some of the findings from a study done by the Capital District Transportation Committee. The CDTC Linkage Program was a grant to study the zoning and development of the hamlet of New Scotland, located at the intersection of route 85 and 85A.

A 2008 plan to build a mall, anchored with a big-box department store, at the site attracted the attention of residents and caused debate in the town.  After a number of election cycles, last year the town adopted a new local law prohibiting large-scale commercial development, unless developers are given the town’s prior approval.

A grant to integrate the study into law was accepted in 2012, and Dolin said he hoped a future proposal could be ratified into law by the board in 2014.

The proposed 2014 town budget calls for a 1.66-percent property tax increase, meaning those with a $200,000 property would see their annual tax bill go up by $6, and those living in the village of Voorheesville would see an  increase of $3.40.

The $7,156,997 budget will set aside $332,000 from reserve funds for 2014, still leaving a reserve of about $2.3 million.

The town board will to vote on the adoption of the 2014 budget at its Nov. 13 meeting.

Dolin said costs for health care and retirement continue to grow and that the town is running out of ways to cut costs.

New Scotland has saved over the last two years by managing a combination of retirements and unfilled positions, where the town chose not to replace the employees, said Dolin.

The town also negotiated a new employee health-insurance program last year that Dolin said contributed to cutting costs.

“Were trying to reduce our costs and doing everything we can, short of laying people off; were running out of opportunities for savings,” said Dolin.

Dolin said the town should focus on what he called “modest residential and commercial growth,” in 2014.

“We think, if we could just get some modest level of commercial or residential development, that would go a long way,” said Dolin,

By getting the reformed zoning laws in place, Dolin said, contractors and officials would have a clearer understanding of expectations.

“We don’t want to waste their time; we don’t want to waste ours. This gives you a place where everyone starts from and knows about going into it,” he said.

Dolin said the town is still open to most businesses except for the largest of big-box stores.

“The town is definitely taking a hard look at the intersection of 85 and 85A,” he said. “It’s a great resource, if it can be developed properly.

More New Scotland News