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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 12, 2009

Fund balance of $10M
Split board adopts $30M budget, no tax hike

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — The final $30 million town budget was approved on Nov. 5, in a vote split down party lines. The supervisor says the budget will balance on $9.7 million in sales tax revenue, and, if needed, will dip into the fund balance if necessary, which is roughly a third the spending amount.

Democratic Supervisor Kenneth Runion detailed roughly $370,000 in the budget that could potentially be held if the sales tax revenue comes in under the $10.05 million he projected. Democratic councilmembers Paul Pastore and Patricia Slavick voted with Runion to pass the budget, but Republican councilmen Warren Redlich and Mark Grimm were opposed.

The tax rate of 26 cents per $1,000 is expected to remain steady, which Runion campaigned on in his successful re-election bid.

All of the town board members thought the budget holds that Runion had outlined were a positive step. Some particular holds include not filling open positions in both the receiver of tax’s and the assessor’s offices, delaying some renovations to the fire-department training center, and reducing supply costs in several departments.

However, Grimm said that there were several reasons he opposed the budget; the first — he was against raising pay for town board members. Each town board member will receive a 3-percent raise in 2010, and Grimm said, in this troubled economy, he was not comfortable voting for that pay raise.

According to Runion, the town of Guilderland has a fund balance of roughly $10 million. He said the surplus is the result of over-estimations of spending, and under-estimations of revenues, in other years. Any money budgeted and not used in a given year automatically gets put into a fund balance, or a “rainy day fund,” the supervisor said. While school districts are required by law to have no more than 4 percent of their budgets in unappropriated fund balances, state law says municipalities can keep “a reasonable amount of fund balance.”

But, Grimm said, another reason he opposed the budget was that he was skeptical of the $10-million surplus.

“Towns can’t have deficits. Is there really such a thing as a surplus?” asked Grimm. He said he thought reserve funds were set aside for specific items.

The supervisor said that reserve funds and fund balances are entirely separate things. He said the state comptroller has limitations on the amount of fund balances municipalities should maintain. The comptroller’s office seven years ago did advise a limit of 10-percent, but a spokesman at the comptroller’s office said this week that there is no limit.

“Fund balances allow you to have a relatively slim year without raising taxes. Taxes would fluctuate every year if it were not for fund balances,” Runion said.

Grimm said he was under the impression that individual municipalities were not allowed to have fund balances in excess of a certain amount, but Runion said there is no punishment for a high fund balance.

“In prior audits of all administrations, there have been criticisms for having high fund balances, but they can’t punish you. In a slim year, everyone is glad your fund balances are high,” said Runion. He said that the town will probably use a small amount of the fund balances this year to offset costs if the sales-tax revenue is low, Runion said. That, along with the holds he has put in place, should allow the budget to balance on $9.7 million in sales tax revenue. There is no surplus anticipated for this year, according to the supervisor.

Grimm said he did not think the $10 million figure could be accurate, because the numbers provided to board members were dated Dec. 31, 2008.

“We won’t know the real numbers until the end of this year. We don’t know what kind of shape we’re in,” said Grimm.

“We calculate what the fund balances are when we close out each fiscal year. We don’t keep running tallies,” Runion said. He said, just as in many other parts of the budget, the figures are an estimate.

“All municipalities have surplus; it’s just good planning,” said the supervisor. Grimm said, if the surplus really exists, the money should be used to avoid cutting items out of the budget, such a senior transportation, and anything related to public safety.

“Generally, the budget is fair; there are very few increases, and few cuts,” Runion concluded.

Other business

In other business, the town board voted unanimously to:

— Continue a public hearing on Dec. 1 about a site clean-up at 3600 Western Turnpike, Bob’s Crushing and Towing, owned by Robert Ciembrowniewicz;

— Set a public hearing for Dec. 1 on Water District Extension number 75, in the Twenty West Subdivision;

— Authorize the supervisor to sign a collector’s warrant for the Guilderland Water District;

— Authorize the town court to apply for a grant through the Justice Assistance Program;

— Accept dedication of 70.23 acres of land to the Town of Guilderland to be used as an archeological park south of Western Avenue and west of Vosburgh Road; and,

— Install stop signs to replace yield signs at intersections of Lincoln Drive and Presidential Way, and Lincoln Drive and Jefferson Court, as recommended by the town’s Traffic and Safety Committee.

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