Saranac Lake village tax levy just under state’s cap

SARANAC LAKE – Village officials have cut their way down to the state’s property tax cap, approving a 2013-14 budget that will increase the village tax levy 3.81 percent.

That’s just a hair under the village’s tax levy limit of 3.82 percent. When it was filed in March, the $5 million tentative budget’s general fund included a 7.83 percent increase in the tax levy.

Village Treasurer Paul Ellis said the village board approved a number of cuts to get the budget down to the cap, including one personnel move. Trustees opted not to fill a vacancy created by the retirement of police Patrolman Kelly Allen, which Ellis said will save roughly $69,000.

Police Chief Bruce Nason told the Enterprise he hopes the loss of one of his patrolmen can be made up by the hiring of part-time officers, something the village is pursuing.

“With the call volume that we experience, I would prefer that they would have filled the position,” Nason said, “but I’m hopeful things will work out with the part-time positions so we will have available resources when needed.”

Mayor Clyde Rabideau has said the village could hire as many as two part-time police officers. If that happens this year, Ellis has said the cost would be covered through savings in overtime.

While one police department position will be cut, the village currently has several other open positions that it opted to fund next year, including vacancies in the Department of Public Works and the parks and recreation director position that was held by Charlie Martin until he resigned earlier this month.

Several capital improvements were cut from the budget, including $60,000 for a new roof and insulation at the mechanic’s garage, $33,500 on engineering for new recreational fields at the former village landfill, $19,000 for the removal of an underground fuel storage tank at the former village offices and $18,000 for the purchase of a pickup truck.

Ellis said some of these projects will be considered again long-term as part of an overall capital plan.

“We’re trying to stagger things so we’re not doing it all at once,” Ellis said.

Among other cuts, Rabideau had requested $10,000 be set aside for a “signature” summer event in July, but he agreed to remove that from the budget, Ellis said. Smaller amounts were also cut from the village’s road salt budget and its publicity fund, Ellis said.

Water and sewer rates will increase by 8.6 and 8.9 percent, respectively. The increases in both budgets have been attributed to a loss of revenue due to the ongoing change in flat-rate to metered billing and a series of proposed infrastructure repairs and upgrades.

A public hearing on sewer rates, which is required by law, is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. April 22 in the village meeting room on the second floor of the Harrietstown Town Hall.

Overall, Ellis said he was pleased with the budget. He noted village tax levy increases have averaged 2 percent or less over the last five years, both before and after the cap was implemented. While Essex and Franklin counties have pushed their tax levy increases to zero in recent years, Ellis said that can be dangerous.

“To get to zero, you basically deplete all your available resources and then you start seeing huge spikes in tax rates,” Ellis said. “I’m more of a slow and steady type of person, trying to avoid the big peaks and valleys on the tax rates. I think it’s been a prudent course, but I don’t know how much longer we’re going to be able to maintain it, unless the economy turns around.”

The village board adopted the budget at its meeting Wednesday night. Beforehand, village resident Shawn Boyer asked if the village was able to keep a $5,000 allocation in the budget to study returning the village beach to Lake Flower.

“It’s been put in reserve for the coming year,” Rabideau said, “and there will be a number of criteria that go along with any release of funds that we’ll be talking about in the months to come.”

Ellis said a copy of the adopted budget will be posted on the home page of the village’s website,

Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or