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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, November 20, 2008

Berne in its ‘best financial shape’

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — The town board approved a $2.2 million preliminary budget for 2009 at its Nov. 12 meeting, with no tax increase in next year’s spending plan.

About $747,000 of that is to be raised by taxes, while the tax rate remains at about $4.67 per thousand of assessed value. Appropriations for the general fund total $909,740, and for the highway fund, $1,289,200. The bulk of town funds come from county sales tax.

“The zero-percent tax increase I’m very proud of,” said Supervisor Kevin Crosier. “The town is in the best financial shape it’s ever been in its entire history, even in tough financial times.”

The $747,000 to be raised by taxes is a $10,000 increase from last year. “That’s for the paramedic program,” said Crosier. “Everybody in the county had an increase for the paramedic program, which was for fuel and personnel expenses. But, even though it went up $10,000, it’s one of the best programs money can buy, and you’re paying just the cost of the program,” he said.

“We received a 23-percent reduction in health care costs,” Crosier added. “The town took a proactive approach to reducing health-care costs about three or four years ago, and now it’s paying off.”

Town officials will be getting a 3-percent raise across the board, said Councilman Peter Vance.

Of general fund appropriations, $338,150 will go towards salaries and other general government expenses, $121,400 towards transportation, and $166,400 into home and community services.

General fund revenues total at $567,200 for the coming year, $403,500 coming from non-property tax, and $101,000 from state aid.

“We made some cuts, but they were things that weren’t going to affect any services,” said Crosier. “We limited trips to New York City, no fireworks this year [for July 4], things like that.”

Town judges, instead of being trained in New York City, will now get their training locally. “The training is excellent, but having it down in New York City is just too expensive,” Crosier said.

One means of increasing energy efficiency and reducing costs has been the use of a waste-oil heater, installed at the town’s highway department five years ago.

“We take the waste oil from our new transfer station and the school and use it to heat our garage,” said Crosier. “Now, all the oil that it takes to heat the highway building is used motor oil,” he said.

The next step in saving money, Crosier said, is consolidating highway services with the county. Board members rejected an earlier proposal by Crosier and the county to merge highway departments.

“It’s too bad the board didn’t give it a better look,” Crosier said. “I think that’s the next thing the government is going to have to face.”

Other business

In other business at its Nov. 12 meeting, the town board:

— Approved its sewer-use ordinance [for full coverage, go to www.altamontenterprise.com, under Hilltowns archives for Oct. 16];

— Agreed to discuss a moratorium on residential and commercial wind-energy projects in the town;

— Scheduled a meeting for Saturday, Dec. 13, to continue the ongoing discussion on consolidating the Berne Public Library and Hilltown Senior Citizens’ community room. The meeting time is not yet confirmed;

— Appointed Al Raymond as town justice. Raymond will replace Richard M. Guilz, who has resigned;

— Approved the repayment of a $129,865 loan to the town’s general fund, originally loaned to the town’s highway department for purchase of a new truck; and

— Approved the Capital Region Solid Waste Management Partnership Plan, as mandated by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation [see related story].

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