Supervisor proposes $32M budget

Supervisor Kenneth Runion

GUILDERLAND — The preliminary town budget for 2014 has been filed and the supervisor says the tax rate is actually going down.
The total for the 2014 proposed budget is $32,356,817, and the town tax rate is .2495 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, down from .2599 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2013, a decrease of four percent.

Supervisor Kenneth Runion attributes the tax drop to an increase in revenues and the retirement of a number of town employees over the past year.

“We haven’t increased our spending; we’ve seen stronger sales tax numbers and stronger mortgage tax receipts; and, when you put all of that together, we’re able to reduce the tax levy and maintain all of our funds at their current levels,” Runion said.

All town employees, both union and non-union workers, will receive a 2-percent raise in 2014.

The proposed budget, if approved by the town board, will bring the town in $329,000 under the state-set 2-percent tax-levy cap.

The town board is currently all Democratic; Republicans are running a full slate for the November election.

Runion’s adversary in the coming election, Mark Grimm, feels that the supervisor isn’t being transparent about the town tax rate, because a separate line for a pension tax was created in 2012.

From 2011 to 2014, said Grimm, the pension tax jumped 34 percent. He alleged that Runion broke that tax out into a separate line in order to avoid saying that the general town tax had increased, and to attempt to mislead people.

Runion responded, through The Enterprise, that he broke pension out into a separate tax line in an effort to be more transparent, not less.

“We separated it out in order to make it easier for people to understand what they were paying for,” said Runion, who confirmed that the pension cost had, in fact, gone up significantly from 2011 to 2014, but won’t go up from 2013 to 2014.

The amount that municipalities are required to contribute to the state system increased markedly in recent years as the pension fund investments falstered along with Wall Street.

“The biggest drivers of the budget are retirement contributions and health insurance costs,” said Runion last year, when the retirement contributions the town was required to make increased by roughly $400,000. “It is difficult for us to handle these unfunded mandates — we have no control over them, we can’t anticipate it; we just get the bill and have to pay it.”

Even with the pension tax, Runion said, the average household in Guilderland will pay under $70 per year in taxes.

“We have the lowest tax rate in Albany County,” he said.

“He’s redefined what the town tax bill is,” Grimm maintained. “That’s misleading.”

Grimm also took issue with the fact that the budget proposal posted to the town website does not include the supervisor’s specific salary.

“The way the state comptroller requires budgets to be filed, it doesn’t show individual salaries — for anyone,” said Runion.

The town submitted a legal notice to The Altamont Enterprise on Oct. 3, containing all elected officials proposed salaries for the 2014 budget. These salaries are:

  • Supervisor, $108,176;
  • Town board members, $22,578.75 each;
  • Town clerk, $55,518;
  • Superintendent of highways, $79,030;
  • Receiver of taxes, $55,518; and
  • Judges: $47,749 each.

Grimm said, if elected, he will make changes to the way the budget is prepared.

“If I’m elected I will have a top-to-bottom review of the spending in every department,” said Grimm. “I went and talked to the department heads when I was on the town board, but maybe they weren’t able to speak freely.”

Runion, though, is proud of the way he has handled the budget since he became supervisor. In 2005, the town tax rate was 32 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, and Runion said that, especially with the economy spiraling downward in 2008, it is a wonder that the town has been able to hold the line.

“Mr. Grimm can make whatever allegations he chooses to make,” Runion said.

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