Old fuel tanks take bite from Ballston spending plan
BALLSTON The proposed 2014 budget for Ballston has no town or highway taxes, includes funds to replace aging underground fuel tanks, gives a slight raise to nonunion town employees and predicts a healthy increase in revenue from mortgage tax collections.
Ballston Supervisor Patti Southworth said her focus in crafting the budget was to meet the needs of the town while not losing sight of the fact she was spending taxpayer money and needed to be fiscally prudent. The town budget totals $6.8 million, with a majority of the revenue coming from sales tax and mortgage tax collections.
One of the town’s big-ticket expenses was $125,000 to remove aging underground fuel tanks that serve the town hall, first responders and transportation programs. Southworth said the current tanks could cost the town a lot of money in the future when they start to leak and that purchasing new above-ground tanks, which has been under consideration for about six years, would save the town money in the long run.
Based on the town’s growing system of roads, Southworth also included money to purchase a new highway truck. This budget also includes the final payment on a truck the town leased a few years ago.
The highway equipment costs will be covered with $315,000 from the highway fund balance, which is left with about $600,000. Southworth said none of the town’s reserve fund is used in her budget.
Southworth lamented the fact that she couldn’t cut health insurance for the part-time elected officials from the budget, saying it would save $50,000 that could be used for a hazardous waste pickup. “[Health insurance is] in the proposed budget because I can’t take it out without board approval,” she said.
A concern of hers for next year is the water district, as revenue has been basically flat and operating expenses have risen. She renewed her calls for water district consolidation and said the water committee needs to issue recommendations to the water commissioner so they can act before the end of the year.
Next year, Southworth doesn’t anticipate the town paying more for water, despite the possibility that Glenville will continue to be the town’s main water source. She said water usage rates would cover any additional costs, but noted that the town’s Eastline Road Pump Station was proving to be a wasted expense while the town used Glenville’s water.
In projecting the town’s sales tax revenue for next year, Southworth assumed only a one percent growth, which is a conservative estimate. She projected a larger percentage growth in mortgage tax revenues based on collection figures this year and housing plans on the books for next year.
The budget also includes $50,000 to be used for a comprehensive plan review, a two percent raise for all non-union employees and no increase in year-to-year funding for outside agencies. Southworth commended the emergency service providers for submitting conservative budgets.