Budgets Proposed In Niskayuna, Clifton Park, Saratoga Springs

Oct 5, 2018

It’s municipal budget season. As part of WAMC’s continuing coverage, Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard takes a look at proposed budgets in some communities in New York’s Capital Region.

Municipalities are beginning budget discussions, with spending proposals being introduced in several local communities.

Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan this week said she didn’t envision the August lightning strike that started a fire and resulted in extensive renovation work at City Hall.

The strike, Madigan told the city council in her Comprehensive Budget presentation, will impact the city’s finances next year.

“This incident has impacted every city department as well as every resident who interacts with the city, and the timing of the strike has resulted in a 2019 Comprehensive Budget that focuses on the city’s immediate demands while allowing flexibility as the city determines our next steps in the near future,” said Madigan.

She said city departments have agreed to make concessions as a result of the damages and expenses related to the lightning strike, pushing expenses up compared to last year. 

“2019 General Fund requested expenses came in at $50.2 million, which was an increase of 8.8 percent, while 2019 General Fund requested revenues totaled $43.9 million, assuming a stable tax rate and no usage of Fund Balance. That $6.3 million difference was untenable, and resulted in a 2019 Comprehensive Budget that eliminated many of the requests submitted, such as new hires and vehicles,” said Madigan.

Under Madigan’s plan, residents would see a small increase in property taxes. The average property tax rate would rise .38 percent.

To the south, the town of Clifton Park, which operates without a general property tax, would see slight changes to some taxes under the proposed 2019 Comprehensive Budget, said Town Supervisor Phil Barrett.

“The Highway Fund Tax will increase slightly to 29.85 cents per thousand of assessed value. To give you some historical perspective, back in the year 2000, it was 87 cents – so a significant drop over 19 years. And our EMS tax will be reduced in 2019 – that will fall to 24 cents. Back in 2000, that was around 26 cents per thousand of assessed value. So we’re seeing some very good trends as far as our taxes go,” said Barrett.

Barrett attributed Clifton Park’s healthy finances to a growing tax base. He said, however, that employee health insurance costs are projected to increase 13 percent.

“But for 2019, we’ll be paying about the same as we paid seven years ago,” said Barrett. “So we’ve made some very aggressive steps in working with our CSEA bargaining units to reduce the costs of healthcare both for employees and the taxpayers.”

Barrett said at this time, the $17.5 million spending plan does not include any cost of living raises for unionized employees, something which could change as negotiations continue.

Just across the Mohawk River, residents of the neighboring Schenectady County Town of Niskayuna could see a small increase in property taxes.

Supervisor Yasmine Syed called her first budget proposal “responsible” in a challenging year.  

“Revenue from residential property taxes stayed flat, they didn’t increase. We also saw a big reduction in the mortgage tax revenue year-over-year. So that, coupled with our contractual salary increases that we have to abide by year-over-year, resulted in the necessity of imposing a one percent property tax increase,” said Syed.

Syed said the $15.3 million budget plan invests in personnel with a new lieutenant position being added in the town police department. The town also plans to create a part-time human resources officer position.

Syed has pledged to reduce debt load, maintain staffing and salaries, town events, and create a capital fund to reduce borrowing.