Niskayuna board unanimously approves 2014 budget
NISKAYUNA The Niskayuna Town Board on Wednesday evening approved a 2014 budget with minor changes from the original proposal that squeaked in just under the property tax cap.
The final 2014 budget came in at just more than $14.2 million, a roughly $500,000 increase from the 2013 budget.
The approved budget sets homeowners’ tax rate at about $2.54 per $1,000 of assessed value, while businesses will see a tax rate of about $5.77 per $1,000.
For homeowners, that amounts to a 3.54 percent increase in taxes over the 2013 plan, slightly less than the maximum allowed under the state-imposed tax cap.
The board voted 5-0 to approve the budget. Wednesday was the deadline to do so.
“It’s a difficult process,” town Supervisor Joe Landry said after the board approved a flurry of budget resolutions. “There’s less flexibility than there was in prior years. We had to make some tough decisions.”
Changes in the town’s taxable valuation increased the town’s tax cap slightly over what was anticipated in Landry’s original budget proposal.
The budget does not add or eliminate any positions, Landry said. However, personnel lines within the budget were shifted to better reflect who is doing what work for which department, he has said.
The plan also uses no reserve funds in the general or highway budgets. The only budget to draw from the rainy day fund is Sewer District No. 1, which is tapping $12,000 in reserves for its $1.2 million budget.
“There’s actually no appropriation of fund balance in the general and highway,” town Comptroller Paul Sebesta said. “That’s the best part of this budget. That’s fantastic. That’s really helping our bond rating. They love that.”
No reserves have been budgeted in the general fund since the 2011 budget, approved in November 2010. Concern over the size of the town’s reserve fund helped lead Moody’s to downgrade the town’s credit rating two years ago.
Leaf recycling fees are budgeted at $190,000, $20,000 more than what was budgeted in 2013 and nearly as much as was collected in 2012 — $192,390. The town instituted the $30 fee in 2012. Residents are able to opt out if they like.
The town is also expecting an $80,000 increase in mortgage tax revenue, for a total of $780,000 in 2014. Mortgage tax revenue was budgeted at $700,000 for 2013 but is on track to total $850,000, Sebesta has said. In 2012, $925,000 was collected, but in 2011, just $655,000 was collected.
The last couple of budgets have been relatively free of controversy and were passed unanimously. Disagreements in 2010 and 2011 resulted in divided votes.
The board approved the budget Wednesday at a 5 p.m. meeting, two hours before the board’s normal meeting time.
Town resident Lorene Zabin, who has questioned meeting notices and times in the past, especially on the town’s website, said she resented the 5 p.m. start. She heard about it only when she read it earlier that day in The Gazette.
Landry said afterward that the meeting time was necessary because the town Zoning Board of Appeals already had a meeting scheduled for the board room at 7.
When told by a reporter that Wednesday’s Town Board meeting was not posted on the town’s website Tuesday evening, Landry said the town has to get better at posting the meetings on the site.
But he said the proper legal postings were made.