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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 21, 2010

Knox to cut spending by $60K

By Zach Simeone

KNOX — The town supervisor proposes a $2.06-million budget for next year, cutting about $60,000 from this year’s budget, and he said this week that he expects revenue from county sales tax to begin increasing in the near future.

“The big thing that really affects us is sales tax, and the sales tax revenues that have been generated for all the towns in Albany County have been down,” said Supervisor Michael Hammond this week. “But I think we have seen the bottom of the downslide here…The last sales tax distribution check I got here was slightly higher.”

In drafting the tentative budget, Hammond figured on $740,000 in county sales tax revenue, which is distributed to municipalities by the county based on population.

The town board will hold its public hearing on the 2011 budget at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 3.

Of the $2,062,890 budgeted for 2011, about $765,000 will be appropriated for the general fund, down from this year’s $813,093; about $1.02 million will go into the highway budget, down from this year’s $1.04 million.

And, while the town took a total $651,899 from its unexpended fund balance in the 2010 budget, it will take $607,283 next year. Hammond expects that $783,718 will then remain in the fund balance.

Next year’s budget will depend on $246,228 from property taxes, up from the $239,058 in the 2010 budget.

There were no raises this year for the town hall employees, though the highway department is unionized, and its next three-year contract is still to be negotiated. The current contract, set to expire at the end of this year, had included yearly raises of 10 cents an hour.

“The retirement contribution was the big kick for us this year, because all towns had to come up with another few thousand,” said Hammond, going over some challenges in putting together the 2011 budget. “It’s the way the New York State Retirement System is amortizing the cost of the employer contributions. And it wasn’t just our town; it’s statewide.”

The state’s investments on Wall Street faltered with the rest of the economy, meaning municipalities have to pay a larger share for their retirees.

So, the town will be paying an additional $9,000, or $46,000 in total to the state’s retirement system.

“We also had to deal with about a 15-percent increase in health insurance premiums for the town,” Hammond went on. Health insurance for highway workers is up from $70,000 to $75,000, and from $12,500 to $16,000 for other town employees.

And advanced life support services will cost $1,300 more.

The town completed its $1.4-million town-hall renovation this year, but this has not affected the budget process for next year, Hammond said.

“We had already been, on an annual basis, contributing toward the town-hall project,” he said. “Now, that same commitment gets converted into paying down a bond anticipation note [for the renovation], and also our cell-tower income is now contributing toward paying for the town-hall interest on the bond anticipation note. In this particular year, we are actually going to be collecting more on the cell tower than we’re paying for the interest on the bond anticipation note, so there’s going to be a net gain on the general fund.”

Hammond went on to say that the town is hoping to bring other cellular carriers into town, “but that’s just a possibility right now,” he said.

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