SARANAC LAKE - Harrietstown supervisor candidate Bob Bevilacqua says responsible budgeting has left the town in "solid" financial shape.
Meanwhile, his opponent, Saranac Lake village Trustee Tom Catillaz, said he plans to go through the town's preliminary 2013 budget to look for ways the town can cut waste.
(Enterprise file photos)
In a press release titled "Bob Bevilacqua on Town Taxes and Debt Service," the Republican councilman says town officials have been working hard this year to keep their budgets within the state's 2 percent property tax cap.
Bevilacqua said he and the town board will continue to work with department heads to review expenses in the proposed 2013 town budget and anticipated expenses over the next three years.
"This has been a successful practice followed for many years, whereby borrowing is managed and controlled so a huge mountain of debt is not built up," Bevilacqua said. "Residents do not want a massive debt structure built up by bonding that will hold the budget process hostage for years to come."
Bevilacqua noted that the town's debt is only $157,800 while the village is roughly $18 million in debt, most of it from various water and sewer projects.
While the town budget, like any other, contains previously agreed-upon contractual expenses that can't be reduced, Bevilacqua said other expenses should be scrutinized for potential cuts, though he didn't specifically name any in the release. He also said he wants to work with other organizations and municipalities to reduce expenses through shared services, but he didn't give any examples other than things the town has already done.
"We have worked together to move the village offices into the town hall, not only saving both village and town taxpayer dollars, but also permitting those biotech firms to move in to the newly vacated village buildings and adding to the tax base," Bevilacqua said. "In addition, the village was given a reduced rent so those savings could be directed to maintain the Sears parking lot lease."
Bevilacqua said he's only missed one meeting during his five-year tenure on the board. He described himself as a "team player who has the experience to lead the town board in responsible budgeting.
"Before I make a decision, I search out all the facts and I ask people for their opinions," he said. "I don't shoot from the hip or make promises about taxes that I can't keep. I look at what the effect is going to be down the road."
Catillaz, a Democrat, and his campaign have criticized the current town leadership as moving too slowly on financial planning and other issues, but Bevilacqua said that's a misconception.
"Promising a tax cut, or promising to stay below the tax cap, is not the same as actually achieving it," he said. "If we are able to meet the 2 percent tax cap mandate and still provide the required services while honoring our obligations, it will happen because the work began last year by the whole town board.
"The financial state of Harrietstown is solid. Pay attention to the percentages, but also look at the actual dollar amounts."
"Cut out waste"
Bevilacqua's release was issued before town Budget Officer Mike Kilroy filed the town's preliminary budget for 2013 last Friday. It carries a 0.6 percent reduction in the tax levy and an 8.6 percent spending increase. Tax rates for town residents inside the village would drop from $1.27 to $1.24 per $1,000 of assessed property value, while rates outside would increase from $2.51 to $2.60, if the budget was adopted as is.
Before the budget was issued, Catillaz called on the town to put out a preliminary budget that complies with the 2 percent tax cap. Once it was issued, he promised to do three things.
"First, I will comb the budget thoroughly to make sure that it does not rely on one-shot tricks or impose inappropriate costs on town taxpayers simply to have a preliminary budget that looks good before the November election that fails to cut out real waste; Second, that they didn't cut the essential services the citizens of the town of Harrietstown deserve; and third, when elected in November, I will work to ensure that in the final budget enacted by the end of the year our tax dollars will be properly spent below the 2 percent tax cap."
Catillaz noted that in its 2012 budget, the town shifted $238,500 out of its reserves and fund balance and still had a tax levy hike of 9 percent.
"The 2012 tax hike would have been higher without that one-shot transfer, but such actions are fiscally dangerous and could affect the town's credit rating," he said. "They simply defer tough decisions to the future, and are bad for the town's long-term fiscal health."
Catillaz also said the town's current budget lacks detail and promised to make future budgets more "transparent" if he's elected, although he didn't give specifics about what kind of clarity he was looking or would provide.