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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, March 31, 2011
$1M budget proposed for village
By Jo E. Prout
ALTAMONT The tax rate for the $1.04 million village budget will remain the same, if the board here adopts the plan recommended by Treasurer Catherine Hasbrouck Tuesday. Also, employee raises could top 3 percent, after last year’s wage freeze, if the split board finds the cash before June.
“For us, the basic and most telling of variables…is the fact that the receipts we get from county [sales] taxes have always been critical to our operation,” said Mayor James Gaughan. According to census data revealed this month, Altamont’s population fell from 1,736 to 1,720 over the last decade.
“It’s 17 less people,” Gaughan said. Albany County distributes sales tax to municipalities based on population. So, if other municipalities have experienced major growth, it would affect Altamont’s portion.
The village receives between $275 and $300 per resident from the county sales tax revenues, Gaughan said. “That’s $5,000 per year for 10 years, until the next census,” he said, multiplying out the total to a reduction of $50,000 over the next decade.
The village received $510,000 in county tax revenues last year, and expects to receive the same for the upcoming fiscal year, which runs June to May. Property-tax revenues are expected to stay the same, at about $272,000.
Taxpayers may pay $2.681 per $1,000 of assessed value, if the board adopts this tentative budget. Last year, the board adopted a budget with a tax rate of $2.697 per $1,000 of assessed value.
In addition to the $1.04 million general-fund budget, the village has a water-fund budget of $445,000 and a sewer fund budget of $456,000.
Hasbrouck suggested raising the water rates, to account for a $37,000 increase in the water fund.
“You’re going to have to raise some revenues,” she said.
She suggested increasing the sewer fund by $41,000, but said that it could remain the same.
“You have a hefty fund balance in the sewer,” Hasbrouck said.
Board members discussed reducing the fee paid for grant writing by $1,200. It also discussed reducing funds for the historic Crounse House by a small amount.
Amid discussions of shaving costs, the board considered whether or not to give 1-, 2-, or 3-percent raises to full-time employees. Last year, the board froze wages.
“Considering they didn’t get a raise last year, I would be inclined to go with the 3-percent raise,” Trustee Christine Marshall said.
“It is a cost-of-living increase,” said Gaughan. “The cost-of-living increase [nationally] is less than 2 percent. I would lean toward 2 percent, myself. The elected officials are frozen for the third year in a row.”
Trustee William Aylward, who is also a county legislator, said that the county would give employees 3-percent raises this year.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Nobody represents the employees. It basically falls on our moral responsibility. I think it’s a moral issue.”
“It’s 3 percent, instead of 4 percent over the last two years, is the way I look at it,” said Trustee Dean Whalen.
Trustee Kerry Dineen agreed with Gaughan.
“I think 3 percent is not right,” Dineen said. “I think 2 percent is the way to go. It’s a tough year [economically]. You’ve got to accept that.”
Dineen said that village employees are doing their jobs well, but that the village could not “make up” raises from previous years.
“Who’s making it up to the rest of the group? We’re small. We give what we can,” Dineen said. “We’re giving 3-percent raises and upping your water taxes? I don’t think that’s the thing to do.”
Gaughan said that the wage freeze last year was preceded by 12 years of 3-percent raises for employees.
“It’s not like the village has not been supportive,” he said.
Dineen said she was concerned about raising water rates.
“It’s a business,” Hasbrouck said. “You have increases for a reason.”
Dineen said that a smaller increase for employees would address the cost-of-living issue and mitigate a possible water-rate increase.
Gaughan said that the board did not need to decide which raise to offer until the third week in May. The board will decide on water rates before June 1, he said, and the amount could affect whether the board could offer a 2- or a 3-percent raise.
The board will hold a public hearing the first week of April, but Hasbrouck noted that the board can still adjust the tentative budget after the public hearing, and before a May vote.