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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 27, 2011

Hammond proposes $2.1M budget for 2012

By Zach Simeone

KNOX — Knox is looking at a $2.1 million tentative budget for 2012, up from the current $2.06 million spending plan.

As towns in New York State wrestle with budgeting under the new 2-percent tax-levy cap that goes into effect next year, and which can be exceeded by a public vote of 60-percent or more, Knox’s tentative spending plan for 2012 raises the total levy by only 1.85 percent, from $521,519 this year, to a proposed $530,654 in 2012.

It will use $299,505 from the town’s unexpended fund balance, a decrease from the $304,529 used in this year’s budget.

The town is projecting $740,000 in county sales-tax revenue, as it did last year, but will see an increase in revenue generated by the cellular tower in town, bringing in $30,480 for Knox; last year, the cell tower generated $28,495 in revenue.

Appropriations for the general fund have decreased, from $765,499 this year, to $765,028 for next year.

Knox Supervisor Michael Hammond, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, talked this week about some of the fiscal challenges in the recent budgeting.

“State retirement went up considerably, and that wasn’t just Knox,” Hammond told The Enterprise. “All municipalities in the state had to eat that increase.”

In 2012, Knox will be paying $20,000 more in state retirement for highway workers alone, and will see an overall $33,000 increase in the cost of employee benefits, for which the town budgeted $269,800 this year, and has budgeted $303,065 for next year.

“Much of the New York State Retirement System is based on performance of New York Stock Exchange, and they managed to incur some substantial losses in the last few years, since 2008,” said Hammond. “So, the retirement system amortized us into their new contribution rates to the town, and this was what the end result was.”

Total costs for government support will rise from $239,138 to $239,688, as a result of election expenses. No town employees will be getting raises.

Ambulance costs will rise from $94,768 to $96,647.

On the revenue side, the town is projecting a $300 decrease in state aid, from $144,944 in this year’s budget, to $144,618 in 2012.

On the other hand, the town is expecting $2,000 more in revenue from property sales, as the budget projects $6,000, up from the $3,900 in this year’s budget.

And, the budget for the fire district will increase from $257,245 this year, to $261,349 in 2012.

The highway budget, which accounts for about half of the town’s budget, will increase by about $25,000 in 2012, from $1,017,100, to $1,042,465.

Hammond said that, because of Tropical Storm Irene’s timing, the town was able to factor the aftermath into the budgeting process.

“Fortunately, of all the Hilltowns, Knox was probably the least affected,” said Hammond. “When you look at the others, this was a major consideration for their budgets.”

Highway Superintendent Gary Salisbury, who is also running unopposed for re-election this year, said that the town is well on its way to having its roads back to normal, and the town recently met with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for further discussions on when it might get funding, and how much.

“I gave them my preliminary numbers for each road, and they’re supposed to get back to me,” he said. “It’s still a little foggy as to when that’s going to happen. We still have a lot of drainage work, culvert pipes, that kind of thing. Most of the roads are back to pretty good shape.”

He said that, excluding work to be done on Line Road, which was heavily damaged, road repairs might cost about $500,000 to complete.

“For the Line Road project, we’re going to have to do some board testing; we have to get down and see exactly what’s going on underneath before we make a plan as to how we’re going to fix it,” Salisbury said. “FEMA is getting back to me to see if they’re going to fund the actual engineering test and board testing, and I’m waiting on that. The rest of the roads are going to fall under what they call ‘small projects.’”

For these smaller projects, towns can actually be reimbursed while the work is being performed; for larger projects, like Line Road, towns are reimbursed upon completion of the project. Salisbury said that, other than Line Road, there are still about 30 roads in town that need work.

Still, Salisbury maintains that Irene “didn’t have a big affect on us.”

“Up till Irene hit, I was very careful how much we spent, because I knew money was going to be a real issue, so I didn’t deplete my budget over the summer,” said Salisbury. “Luckily, we had money left in the budget to cover a lot of what we’re paying for now. So, we don’t have to borrow money or anything to get through where we are now. And, when we get reimbursements from FEMA, we’ll be in decent shape.”

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