SARANAC LAKE - The town of Harrietstown's draft budget for 2013 carries a tax levy that's well below the state's 2 percent property tax cap.
The amount of the budget to be raised by taxes stands at $1,980,813, an increase of 0.6 percent, or $11,803, over the current levy. The proposed hike for next year is also well below the 9 percent increase town taxpayers saw this year.
Town Budget Officer Mike Kilroy said the 2013 tax levy increase is being kept in check largely because the town isn't facing big increases in fire protection and airport costs like it did at this time last year. The town's fire and rescue service contracts increased $51,728 and airport costs rose $48,456 in the 2012 budget.
Deputy Supervisor Barry DeFuria said the town board will likely make some changes to the budget, but he expects the levy increase will stay within the cap.
"We had everybody give us their worst case, and that's what we got," DeFuria said. "I know there's stuff in here we have to take out yet, including some salaries that aren't right. But it will be under the cap."
The proposed 2013 budget contains $4,625,950 in spending, an increase of 8.6 percent, or $367,930, over this year's $4,258,020 budget.
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Harrietstown tax rates
The tax rate for town residents inside the village, if the preliminary 2013 budget was adopted without any changes, would be $1.24 per $1,000 of assessed property value, a decrease from the current $1.27. That means the owner of a home that remained at $150,000 both years would see the town tax bill drop from $190.50 to $186.
For town residents outside the village, the tax rate would increase from $2.51 to $2.60 per $1,000, meaning the owner of a $150,000 home would see their town tax bill rise from $376.50 to $390.
The overall budget for the airport would increase from $2,020,155 to $2,327,057. Kilroy said the bulk of the increase is due to increased fuel prices. The town is planning to spend $255,000 more to buy fuel and expects $292,204 more in revenue from fuel sales because prices are higher than they were this year, Kilroy said.
The town is also budgeting an additional $43,000 for airport capital projects in 2013, from $35,000 to $78,000. DeFuria said the additional funds would pay for terminal building improvements, including a new roof. The airport budget also includes $47,000 to hire an assistant manager, although DeFuria said that's not a definite and the town could add another airport service technician position instead.
Kilroy has budgeted the same amounts as last year in contributions from other municipalities to the airport because he said he's not sure what they will give. The exception to that is Franklin County's contribution, which is budgeted to drop from $9,000 to $8,100 because that's what the county gave the town last year. Payments from other municipalities were budgeted as follows: Essex County $800, town of Tupper Lake $1,000, town of Brighton $1,000, town of North Elba $3,000, town of St. Armand $2,300 and town of Santa Clara $3,100. The town of Franklin hasn't contributed to the airport in recent years.
Overall, the airport would continue to be in the red as its expenses are projected to exceed revenues by $287,920. The town plans to apply $75,000 in fund balance to offset that loss, leaving $212,000 to be picked up by property taxes. Last year, the airport tax levy was $236,123 after the town applied the same amount, $75,000, in fund balance.
"My whole intent was to make sure the airport part of it gets creeping down instead of up, and I realize we still have a way to go," DeFuria said. "(Kilroy is) only rolling over $75,000, and I know there's more we can put in there, but we're down two cents or almost three cents (per $1,000 of assessed property value on the town tax rate)."
The highway department budget is up $40,256, from $586,244 to $626,500, in the preliminary budget. More than half of that is tied to a pair of $10,000 increases, one for road paving and another for an excavator, but Kilroy said he believes the board may cut those expenses.
"We want to give (Highway Superintendent) Craig (Donaldson) as much as he needs to take care of roads, but we have to draw the line somewhere," DeFuria said.
Among other expenditures, Kilroy said health insurance premiums for town employees are budgeted to increase by 10 percent.
Most town employees would receive 3 percent raises if the proposed budget was adopted as is. There are no raises proposed for the town supervisor, who gets a $15,000 salary, or any of the four town board members, three of whom get $5,500 stipends and the fourth, the deputy supervisor, gets $6,700.
There's no funding in the budget yet for planned upgrades to the Harrietstown Town Hall, including replacement of a retaining wall at the back of the building. DeFuria said the town still doesn't have final cost estimates on that work. The upgrades could still take place next year, he said, with the bond payments potentially beginning in the 2014 budget.
The budget includes various contributions to youth, senior citizen and community groups. Some will get the same amount they saw last year, like the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce ($18,000), the Saranac Lake Civic Center ($10,000), the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee ($3,000) and the Saranac Lake Youth Center ($1,750). The preliminary budget would hike the contribution to the Saranac Lake Adult Center from $14,000 to $16,000. First Night Saranac Lake, which was cut from this year's budget, would get $1,000 in 2013.
DeFuria said the town board will hold a series of budget workshops in the coming weeks.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.