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Hilltown Archives The Altamont Enterprise, November 10, 2011
Tax levy under the 2% cap
By Zach Simeone
RENSSELAERVILLE Tonight’s public hearing will inch the town closer to the end of the budgeting process for 2012, with the current proposal coming in under the new state-set 2-percent cap for tax levy increases.
The 2011 budget, which totaled about $2.2 million, relied on $1,171,779 in property taxes, while the $2.3 million proposal for 2012 raises the levy to $1,208,586. But there are other factors to consider in determining if the town has met the 2-percent cap, Supervisor Marie Dermody wrote in an e-mailed response to budget questions from The Enterprise.
“The formula calls for last year’s tax levy [multiplied by a] growth factor of 1.0086 [times a] tax cap of 1.02, plus the retirement exclusion,” which, Dermody wrote, meant an additional $3,409.
The town board will hear from the public tonight, Thursday, Nov. 10, at 6:30 p.m., just before the board’s regular meeting, which had been rescheduled to tonight at 7 p.m.
“The tax cap allowed us only about a $37,000 increase over last year’s tax levy, but we lost about $40,000 in sales tax revenue as a result of the 2010 census,” said Dermody.
The county distributes the sales-tax revenue based on municipalities’ population. Rensselaerville is expecting about $538,000 in county sales tax revenue, down from roughly $577,000 this year.
“Our workers’ compensation went up over 12 percent, state retirement went up over $9,000, and health insurance costs went up 7.5 percent,” she went on. “It seems to me that these costs are ones that we have no control over, and yet, for the most part, they are included in our tax-levy cap. We were able to only exclude 0.6 percent of the retirement costs. If a property tax-levy cap is here to stay, it needs to be re-examined in terms of reality. Yes, municipalities could vote to override the tax cap, but if the tax-cap calculations and allowable exclusions were more reasonable, overriding it wouldn't be necessary.”
Asked how the damage from Tropical Storm Irene affected budgeting, and what funding the town is expecting from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Dermody replied, “We await word from FEMA to see exactly what projects they will be funding. In the meantime, it looks like we might have to ‘borrow’ from a FEMA bank account to pay for one or two of the urgent projects and hope that they’ll be funded at least at the 75-percent federal [and] 12.5 percent non-federal reimbursement rate.”
Fire protection costs are up by about $20,000 in 2012, and ambulance costs by nearly $14,000, Dermody said.
“These increases are the result of workers’ comp. increases,” commented Dermody. “For 2011, these lines were significantly underfunded, and therefore not reflective of the actual costs. For 2012, the amounts are accurate to the best of our estimates. We have not yet received notification from [the Workers’ Compensation Board] as to the actual costs for each district or department. We just know that we’ll be paying about $99,000 in 2012, up from about $88,000 in 2011.”
In addition, the supervisor’s personnel line is being increased by 16 percent, or $5,000. The budget notes that this increase has to do with the hiring of another part-time clerk, due to an increased workload.
“Presently, there is an incredible amount of work for one part-time person to accomplish,” Dermody said. “And, aside from that, should the clerk be absent, there is no one available to take over her duties. I’ve proposed a part-time clerk to be called in on an as-needed basis for those times that the present clerk is absent due to illness, or on vacation, or on a leave of absence, or when the tasks needing completion are piling up. Although I have personally done an incredible amount of work trying to help us get caught up, the fact of the matter is that there should be a better separation of duties between the clerk and the supervisor.”