WADDINGTON – The 2014 tentative budget was a point of contention Monday, as council members debated the practicality of keeping the tax levy stable amidst increasing pension, labor and medical insurance costs.
This is the most challenging budget process we have had in the past three years, Mr. Scott said.
The rising increases contributed to a 20-percent tax levy increase at the start of the budget process, Town Supervisor Mark Scott said Monday.
In order to offset that cost, a hundred or more homes valued at $250,000 would have needed to be built within the town this year, Mr. Scott said.
The number one issue I find when I meet with people in town is that they are appreciative we are able to keep the tax levy stable as costs of living increase, Mr. Scott said.
But not everyone present at Mondays meeting agreed that keeping stable rate and levy was a realistic goal.
I havent heard any negatives towards a levy increase, Council member Robert Dalton said. At least not from the people I have talked to, but there are a lot of people in town. And that is something we may have to look at.
Council member Travis McKnight echoed Mr. Daltons statement.
The feeling that I have heard from people they want to make sure the money is spent in the right place, Mr. McKnight said. They are just concerned about where it might go.
In the end, council members and Mr. Scott worked together cut expenditures and actually decreased 2014s tax levy by one cent.
I give the board a lot of credit for looking at each item and maintaining the tax levy for the fourth-straight year and reducing the rate, Mr. Scott said.
Decreases in the tentative budget included a $4,000 cut from the towns $15,000 economic development fund, a $2,762 decrease in the towns $7,228 contingency fund, a $3,000 decrease from the $9,000 Recreational Department budget, and a $2,000 decrease in the towns highway equipment fund.
We have to look at much we continue to cut from economic development, Mr. Scott said. Economic development is necessary if were going to keep the tax levy low in the future.
The total budget for 2014 will be $1,406,232, an increase of $57,641 from this years budget of $1,348,591.
The tax levy will decrease from $261,943 to $261,528 in 2014.
The tax rate will decrease from $1.97 to 1.96 cents per $1,000 assessed property.
The current unused fund balance is approximately $250,000. Approximately $10,000 of the fund balance will be used towards the purchase of a new ambulance for the rescue squad.
Mr. Scott said the approximately $18,000 as a result of St. Lawrence Countys 1 percent tax increase will be given back to the taxpayers as a way to offset expenditures and keep the levy down.
But some relief could be coming in 2015.
Pension costs are not projected to increase and I am also hopeful that the town would receive revenues from economic development initiatives that should be worked on in earnest in 2014, Mr. Scott said.
A public hearing for the towns 2014 preliminary budget is scheduled for Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Building, 48 Maple St.