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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 19, 2006

In New Scotland, Spending plan for $4.9M still in flux

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – The $4.9 million proposed 2007 town budget "isn’t final yet, by a long shot," said Supervisor Ed Clark.

Clark said the town board will have to make some significant cuts, and "the cutting is going to be difficult."

The tax rate for 2007 has decreased by nearly half, as the assessed value has significantly increased after a recent town-wide property revaluation.

The revaluation dramatically increased the assessed value of properties in the town, Clark said.

All town taxpayers, according to the tentative budget, will pay 85 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. In 2006, taxpayers paid $1.61 per $1,000.

Assessment went up for all properties in the town from $538 million in 2006, to $885 million for 2007.

"The tax rate goes down dramatically when the assessed value goes up dramatically," Clark told The Enterprise.

The highway budget makes up a large percentage of the total $4.9 million dollar budget, at $1.6 million. It is up from nearly $1.5 million in 2006.

Many decisions still have to be made, Clark said.

One of those decisions will be whether to separate election costs from the rest of the budget, by putting it on a separate line of the budget, Clark said.

"We have no control over these costs," he said.

As a result of the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, election costs have markedly increased. New York State has to replace its old lever voting machines, and the state legislature left it up to individual counties to choose new machines.

New Scotland’s election costs rose from $12,800 to $70,800, Clark said. Albany County pays two-thirds of the cost, but it still leaves $23,364 for the town of New Scotland to pay.

The amount that the county picked up is apportioned according to assessed value, Clark explained. "I believe it should be according to population," he said.

The decision to separate election costs from the budget will be based on whether the town board passes a local law drafted by L. Michael Mackey, the attorney for the town. A public hearing on the law will be held before next month’s board meeting.

Clark said that the reason for the local law is to distinguish that the costs were not determined by the town.

Clark had wanted to also separate advanced-life-support costs, which pays for a well-equipped and staffed fly car to attend to medical emergencies. The board decided against it, though, and will only vote to separate election costs.

Senior liaison

At last Tuesday night’s budget workshop, Susan Kidder, the senior outreach liaison for the town, told the board her half-time position should become full-time.

"There are some seniors in our community that are in a lot of trouble," Kidder told the board.

The request is recommended from the town’s senior citizens outreach committee.

The job just can’t be done in 20 hours, Kidder told the board. She said that it takes a few hours to work up a relationship with a person, just to get them to open up and trust her.

"I try to attend at least one senior-citizens meeting per month," she said.

Board member Douglas LaGrange said, "I think its an important service."

If the board approves the request, it would mean a significant increase in the budget to pay more for salary and health benefits. Currently, Kidder earns $16,325 annually.

Major changes

The most dramatic change in the tentative 2007 budget is for central data processing. In 2006, roughly $13,000 was budgeted; that figure has doubled to roughly $26,000 for 2007.

The additional funds will be allocated to update the town’s website and to provide the town’s computer network with an unlimited on-call technical support service.

The town website, until now, has been maintained and updated by a volunteer, Clark said.

The site is not all that user-friendly and is "difficult to change," Clark said.

The town will spend $4,000 to contract with someone to update the site.

The remaining $9,000 increase will be used to hire a technical service that will work with the town on an on-call basis to help protect the town’s computer network.

The budget draft also proposes a 25-percent increase – from $10,335 to $14,384 – for the community center, to install new locks on the doors and to install new carpet on the floor.

"It looks like it’s filled with nothing but germs," said board member, Deborah Baron, about the wrinkling floor in the Wyman Osterhout Community Center.

Access to the community center has been a problem for the many organizations that regularly use the building.

The historical association, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, archery club, and seniors, among other groups, all use the building.

The locks that will be installed will have keys that cannot be copied. The town will sell keys to the organizations for $15 each, to help recover some of the cost associated with changing the locks.

The members that receive keys will be held accountable for the keys, and also for making certain the doors are locked upon leaving the building for the evening.

V’ville welcomes a new pastor

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — Brian Gould left a job in steel distribution to join the ministry at the age of 45.

In July he returned to lead the First United Methodist Church in Voorheesville, where he trained to be a pastor as he was working on his divinity degree.

During those years, he assisted with prayer and taught a Bible-study class at the church on weekends. He spent his work weeks in New Jersey, commuting to Drew University from his home in East Greenbush, while his wife, Belinda, supported the family with her salary as a sixth-grade teacher there.

"It’s been an interesting ride," Gould said of his journey into the ministry.

He and his wife are settled into the parsonage next door to the church on Maple Avenue in Voorheesville with their two grown sons nearby. Their elder son, Jonathan, works for the Citizens Environmental Coalition in Albany and their younger son, David, is a recent college graduate, pursuing acting.

Right now Gould says he’s getting a feel for the church and the 140-member congregation before making plans for the future of the church. The previous pastor, Denise Stringer, led the church for five years, which is close to the average, he said.

"We’re hoping and expecting to be here for quite a while," said Gould.

Although he hadn’t planned on coming back to the Voorheesville church, he was pleased that the bishop assigned him here. A congregation that is so involved in the community, he said, is truly blessed. The location of the church at the heart of the village is also unique, he said.

"Being right across from the village green is special," said Gould.

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