Apr 27, 2014 Joe Genco Uncategorized
The Skaneateles Village Board voted 4-1 in favor of adopting the proposed operating budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year at its April 24 meeting.
The general fund budget will be $2,780,177. Of that, the village will raise $1,500,835 from property taxes, a 1.93 increase from the current year.
Under the budget, the tax rate will increase from $3.58 to $3.62 per $1,000 of assessed value — an increase of 1.1 percent. A house valued at $275,000 will pay $995.50 in taxes to the village an increase of $11 from the current rate.
The “no” vote, a rarity for the board, came from Trustee Jim Lanning, who stated: “It is my opinion there is no justification for a property tax increase at this time, so I’ll vote no.”
After the meeting, Lanning said that raising taxes shouldn’t be done solely because of the state’s tax cap.
“We have a 2 percent property tax cap which means that [2 percent] is the most that we can raise it any one year, so to get around that some municipalities are just raising taxes every year. The town board for the past three or four year has actually reduced the tax rate, so we can do it here at the village as well,” he said.
The village has reserve funds, close to $1 million, it could use to balance the budget without a tax increase, he said. After talking to the state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, he learned that the amount of reserve funds the village has is close to being considered excessive by the state.
Mayor Marty Hubbard, who acts as the village’s chief financial officer, had a different view on the budget.
“With the New York state tax cap in place, it is fiscally responsible to annually raise taxes within that limit,” Hubbard said.
Due to increasing costs, including salaries for unionized village employees, it would be irresponsible not to raise taxes to cover the increasing expenses and plan for the future, he said.
If the village kept taxes flat while costs increased, it could later be faced with a budget shortfall and would be unable to raise taxes enough to cover it, he said.
Hubbard said he prefers to draw down the reserve funds by using them on one-time expenses, such as infrastructure projects, to avoid the need to borrow money and pay debt service.
The village doesn’t keep its reserves in a separate account, the extra money is simply kept in the general fund, and the village won’t know how much leftover money it has until the fiscal year is finished, he said.
Currently, the village is undertaking phase one of three of a water system improvement project on the east side of the village to improve water pressure to fire hydrants. The village is also planning for the redesign and landscaping of the parking lot in front of village hall, infrastructure work on Fennell Street and road work on Goodspeed Road, West Lake Road and others.
Though the water project was originally estimated to cost a total of $1.9 million, the village has been taking it on within its budget by splitting it into three phases, doing some of the engineering work in-house and seeking the lowest bids from contractors, Hubbard said.
The continued progress, and cost, of that project, will determine what other projects the village will be able to do, within its budget, he said.
While the budget that the board approved was essentially the same as the one it had released previously, Village Clerk Patty Couch said she changed some of the language in the document to make it more clear what each line item paid for, following numerous questions from the public at the board’s previous meeting. The village fiscal year will conclude at the end of May.
–Hubbard requested a moment of silence for long-time village planning board member David Huxford, who recently passed away.
“If anyone embodied the spirit of the village of Skaneateles, it was David Huxford,” he said.
–The board voted to allow the Skaneateles Library to use the vacant apparatus bay area of village hall for its annual used book sale this July 10 through 13.
–The village received a letter from Onondaga County noting that residents can get free access to radon testing kits by calling 435-1649. Radon is a naturally occurring odorless gas that and is the second leading cause for lung cancer, according to the letter. It can enter homes through cracks in the foundation and cause health issues for occupants over long periods of time.
–The village passed a proclamation declaring April 25 to be Arbor Day in the village of Skaneateles. Trustee Sue Jones said that the Skaneateles Garden Club had planned to plant a new tree near Waterman School in observance of Arbor Day.
–The village received a letter from Marian Overstrom expressing concern about handicap accessibility to village hall and the fire department building (where the village elections are held).
Hubbard said that they village will look into having the doors tested at the fire hall to make sure they are easy enough to open as specified in the American with Disabilities Act. Neither building has electronic door openers that can be activated by pushing a button, though that is not a requirement, Attorney Mike Byrne said.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.