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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 15, 2010

Putting Crupe’s name on top costs $2K
Property taxes steady as Altamont adopts hold-the-line $1 M budget

By Philippa Stasiuk

ALTAMONT Although Altamont’s budget is almost $100,000 less than last year’s, property taxes will remain the same, with decreases in spending across the board and a wage freeze for all village employees.

At its April 6 meeting, the village board unanimously adopted a $1.04 million budget for next year with an estimated tax rate of $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed value.

“This village has had to take a long, hard look at its expenditures and anticipated revenues,” said Mayor James Gaughan. “Besides some reduction in revenues, we’ve suffered under some increases in costs that were to be expected but were larger than we did expect.”

Gaughan was in part referring to the cost of employee benefits such as retirement, workers’ compensation, and health insurance, which altogether increased by 22 percent over last year, costing the village about $143,000, up from $116,000 the year before.

Property tax revenues for Altamont will fund 27 percent of the 2010 budget, a 3-percent increase from 2009. Sewer and water rates will remain the same.

 Half of Altamont’s yearly revenues come from the Albany County sales tax. The county collects the sales tax and redistributes it to municipalities based on population.

Catherine Hasbrouck, the village’s treasurer, estimated that $510,000 of the county sales tax revenues would be given to Altamont. That figure was the same amount that was estimated in last year’s budget, although the actual county sales tax revenue for last year was $546,000.

   When asked what factors went into her estimate, Hasbrouck said, “Instead of estimating low with revenues, like in years past, they cut the expenditure side of the budget by 10 percent.”

Overall, the police budget dropped 8 percent to $163,223, and the fire department budget dropped 7 percent to $119,338. However, only the contractual expenses, such as phone, office supplies, and gas, reflected the 10-percent cut for both, and personnel costs remained the same. Eighty percent of the police budget is comprised of personnel costs.

“We haven’t changed any programs,” said Gaughan, referring to the police and fire department budgets. “We’re just tightening our belts and doing it with less money, but there will be no change in services.”

   Gaughan told The Enterprise that the hardest decision to make in drafting this year’s budget was not providing a cost-of-living increase to the staff “who work very hard with less and less resources.”

He also said it was difficult to not put money into the village reserve account for equipment and other purchases down the road.

   “We do have options, though,” he said. “If we get to the end of the year and a miracle happens and we get back to prior levels of state income tax, we could still vote to put money back into the reserves.”

The price of a legacy

As the board switched from talk of the budget to other topics, tension about the economic outlook for the village remained, showing itself over a vote regarding a new $2,000 sign for Bozenkill Park.

Jessica Lynch, granddaughter of Benjamin M. Crupe, spoke before the board again, requesting that the board replace the old park sign on Gun Club Road with a new one, reading “Village of Altamont, Benjamin M. Crupe, Bozenkill Park.” In February, Lynch had asked the board to add her grandfather’s name to the sign, which she said had been promised to Crupe’s family by the village board in 2001. While the bronze plaque in the park pavilion does indicate “Benjamin M. Crupe Bozenkill Park,” the entrance sign does not.

The board agreed in February to spend $425 dollars to add Crupe’s name to the bottom of the Gun Club Road sign, believing that, in so doing, it had fulfilled its 2001 commitment. However, Crupe’s family, including Lynch, was unhappy with the board’s decision to not change the park sign entirely to reflect the full title of the park as “Benjamin M. Crupe Bozenkill Park.”

   “It’s been 10 years,” said Lynch, speaking at the microphone, “and just throwing his name on the bottom, that’s not putting his name on the sign. He was a great man.  People have said to me, ‘When I couldn’t afford food, your grandfather would give it to me.’ It’s a sign. I’m not asking the world.”

“The cost of an entirely new sign is prohibitive at this time,” responded Trustee Kerry Dineen. “We’ve spent the theme of this evening and the last few months talking about finances and cutting where we could, just so we could give residents a responsible budget. I know this sign will have to be replaced down the road. I’d propose that we go with the first sign because the cost is much different than a totally new sign. When the sign needs to be replaced, we can switch the order of the words.”

While Trustee Dean Whalen wavered, Trustee William Aylward disagreed. “Ben Crupe was an outstanding citizen of this village,” he said. “The board in those days tried to establish a memorial by giving his name to the park. That’s infinite. That doesn’t stop and it should be addressed that way. We should think about how we want to do it for Ben’s memory.”

   Judy Dineen of Lincoln Avenue and Trustee Dineen’s mother, then spoke to the board. “Tawasentha Park was named for my father. I wasn’t consulted about the sign but I also never thought I had a right to say, ‘You must spend money this way.’ It was an honor to remember him and I’m so thankful. I don’t think I have a right to say to government, especially in these times, to say, ‘Spend the money this way.’ You just said we had to cut back on everything and now you say this, and I found that hard.”

  Aylward made a motion to pay for a new sign, and Whalen seconded the motion, saying that, while he found Trustee Dineen’s point very valid, approving the new sign was doing the right thing. Trustees Christine Marshall and Dineen voted no, and Mayor Gaughan was left with the deciding vote. After confirming with Treasurer Hasbrouk that the money could be found in the budget, to which she doubtingly replied, “There’s probably enough in the equipment and park fund but it’s really tight,” Gaughan voted yes, on condition that the current posts could be used for the new sign, shaving a few hundred dollars off of the $2,000 estimate.

   Gaughan described the decision later to The Enterprise as, “one of the most difficult we’ve faced,” and added, “I deeply respect my colleagues who saw the financial constraints as an important issue and bravely voted to limit the signage to save village funds.”

Other business

The board also:

— Heard from Gaughan that Maurice McCormick, zoning board member, and Lois Ginsburg of the planning board have both agreed to serve another volunteer five-year term in their respective positions. Gaughan thanked them both for, “stepping up to the plate” and added, “I appreciate the work that you’ve done and your willingness to continue to serve”;

— Heard from Fire Department Chief Paul Miller that there have been 34 calls for the year;

— Heard from Donald Cropsey, zoning administrator, that he has been working with representatives from the State Employees’ Federal Credit Union (SEFCU) at 763 Main St. to alleviate the glare coming from the automated teller machine. Cropsey said the bank had shut off lights in the parking lot and installed a glare reduction diffuser, which will be analyzed by the bank to make sure it is in compliance with banking regulations.

Cropsey also said that the Stewart’s gas station at the corner of route 156 and 146 has removed old tanks and fuel dispensers and contaminated soils. Cropsey said Stewart’s put in new fiberglass tanks, as well as updated equipment that would allow customers to pay at the pump;

— Heard from Timothy McIntyre, public works superintendent, that water-main flushing has started and would continue for the next three weeks, and that leaf pickup for bags and brush would be happening next month;

— Heard, during the public comment portion of the meeting, from Mike LaMountain of 154 Maple Ave. that the Altamont Community Traditions would hold the annual Green and Clean on April 24 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and that SEFCU would be providing a shredder for people who would like to dispose of important papers;

— Heard from Timothy Carney that he was considering running for the New York State Senate, representing the 46th District, which includes Albany County. Carney said he wanted to work with local municipalities to make state government more efficient;

— Passed a resolution to hold a public hearing May 4 at 7:45 p.m., on a local law, as allowed by state legislation, to provide tax exemptions for Cold War veterans;

— Approved a request by the Parent-Teacher Association at Altamont Elementary School to hold an annual garage sale along the streets of Altamont and Orsini Park on Saturday, May 1, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.;

—Authorized the village to accept sealed bids on a surplus mower 1996 Toro 455D, with a minimum bid of $6,500, as recommended by McIntyre; and

— Approved a request of the Boyd Hilton Veterans of foreign Wars Post 7062 and the Helderberg American Legion Post 977 to allow the village and fire department to participate in the annual Memorial Day Parade on May 23 at 2 p.m. The parade assembles at the Park Street entrance of the fairgrounds at 1 p.m.

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