LAKE PLACID - The North Elba town board unanimously approved the proposed 2013 budget Tuesday night.
Nobody attended a public hearing held prior to the regular meeting, during which town budget officer Cathy Gregory gave a detailed presentation of the proposed budget.
"This is a more difficult year than years past," town Supervisor Roby Politi said. "If it's bad here, it's going to probably be worse at the county level."
The budget increases the tax levy by 4.04 percent over 2012. Gregory said the budget represents a 1.92 percent increase over the 2012 calculated tax levy limit of $3,907,680, a figure provided to the town by the state Comptroller's Office. Gregory said the budget meets the state's 2 percent property tax cap.
The total amount to be raised by taxes in 2013 is $3,982,735. Total spending is $7,112,057, and non-property-tax revenues are estimated at $2,630,768. The budget uses $498,554 in fund balance to keep the tax levy down.
Politi said the board would have liked to keep the levy lower, but its hands are tied. He said the town is at a "bare minimum of employees," and further cuts would have meant a loss of town services.
On the low end, town residents who live in the village of Saranac Lake will see their tax rate increase from 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to 58 cents, an $8 hike for a resident with a home assessed at $100,000. The tax rate is highest for those who live in Ray Brook; it was $2.51 this year and will increase to $2.63 in 2013. The tax rate for residents in the village of Lake Placid will be $1.42. It's $1.33 now.
"You could reduce the tax rate, but you're going to have to throw more fund balance at it," Politi said.
Gregory said projected decreases in revenue affect the budget. In 2013, she said the town expects to lose $20,000 in state aid, $10,000 in mortgage tax revenue, $20,000 in recycling revenue, $45,000 in construction and debris dumping revenue and $4,000 in interest and penalties on real property taxes.
Several departmental requests were taken out of the preliminary budget, Gregory said. Those included the hiring of a part-time code enforcement position at a cost of $20,000, the purchase of a new tandem plow/dump truck which would have required a $200,000 bond, and the purchase of a new pickup truck for the park district for $25,000.
Gregory and Politi also looked for ways to increase revenues in some departments. By increasing dumping fees by $0.01 per pound for loads of 100 pounds or more, the general fund could see a revenue increase of about $65,000. Gregory also adjusted projected revenues for cemetery lot sales based on actual figures from this year and last. That would mean an $11,000 increase in revenue, she said.
Politi said he also wants to modify greens fees and cart rentals at the Craig Wood Golf Course. He said the numbers aren't final, and the changes won't affect locals, but he hopes to increase revenue there by some $27,900.
The town also hopes the village of Lake Placid will kick in about $45,000 toward operations at the Mirror Lake beach.
"At one time, the village had financial troubles in terms of running that beach, so the town stepped in with the park district to do that," Politi said. "It's gotten to the point now where that beach is just more than cutting the grass and raking the sand. It's $30,000 in lifeguards and overtime and Social Security benefits and so forth. It's telephones, toilet paper - it goes on and on and on. I don't think it was ever intended that the town would ever get to a position it's in now and have to spend close to $50,000 a year to operate that beach."
The town board met with the village Board of Trustees late last month and discussed the idea of sharing the expense of running the public beach. Some trustees pushed back against the idea, but on Tuesday, Politi made it sound like the village has softened its stance.
"We have discussed a cooperative agreement with the village that we would continue to administer the operation of the beach, oversee the lifeguards and so forth, but the village would compensate us for a portion of those costs, which will certainly benefit us in the long run," he said. "There's even talk that the village is talking about maintaining the village parks, too, which will also help out in the long run."
Councilman Bob Miller said the town worked hard on the budget.
"I think we went through every line and looked for ways to save money," he said. "The bottom line is everybody did everything they could."
"It could have been a lot worse," Politi added.
The budget passed 4-0, with Councilman Derek Doty absent.
Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.