Rotterdam eyes surplus funds to avoid tax hike
ROTTERDAM Rotterdam officials have again tapped the town’s fund balance to avoid increases in residential taxes.
The proposed $20.5 million 2010 budget increases the general and highway fund levy by $194,393, but decreases the estimated residential tax rate by roughly 0.44 percent under the town’s dual tax system. Commercial tax rates would increase by 3.93 percent, according to the spending plan.
Supervisor Steve Tommasone said the budget reflects a level spending plan that takes the lagging economy into consideration. He said using the fund balance is a way to ensure residents aren’t pinched by budgetary increases that are not discretionary.
“We’re working very diligently to wait out the economy,” he said Monday. “People can’t afford to pay much more.”
The budget relies on using both the general and highway fund balances to stave off tax increases. Town Comptroller Pat Aragosa said the budget allocates $1.7 million of the general fund balance and $197,000 of the highway fund balance.
Aragosa said the town can sustain the use of fund balance again this year. He said the general fund balance will drop to about $1 million, which is still an acceptable amount to keep on hand.
“It’s not there forever,” Aragosa said of the fund balance.
The proposed budget includes a residential tax rate of $3.36 per $1,000 of assessed value. That equates to about $588 for a $175,000 home, not including special districts.
Commercial properties, which realized a slight decrease in taxes with last year’s budget, will pay about $5.63 per $1,000 of assessed value. Tommasone said the increase resulted from changes made by the assessor on the commercial tax roll.
“It’s a pronouncement that there was a lot of commercial and industrial property that was not assessed during the reval,” he said.
One of the largest increases within the general fund in the proposed 2010 budget is for the police department. Police spending increased by about $402,000 over last year, more than half of that due to a jump in the town’s retirement allowances.
The salaries for police chief and deputy chief both increased by about $3,000 in the proposed budget. The increases are contractual.
The budget also doesn’t include a line item for Rotterdam Emergency Medical Services Inc., which was allotted $107,000 in this year’s spending plan. Town voters will soon decide whether to fund the town’s non-profit ambulance service through a tax district instead of through the general fund.
Tommasone said the referendum on the district will likely occur sometime during the winter. He said the town will probably negotiate a short-term contract with the company until the referendum.
The budget also includes a number of non-union salary increases. The positions of highway superintendent, town clerk, comptroller, assessor, receiver of taxes and town justice all receive slight raises in the budget.
Tommasone said there could be more room for savings. He said the town will again offer an early retirement incentive with the hope of shedding several jobs.
All in all, Tommasone said the budget represents a lean spending plan. He defied critics to find areas that could be cut further without compromising the delivery of town services.
“I think you’d be hard-pressed to find fat in the budget,” he said.