In close vote, Lake Placid board approves budget
LAKE PLACID – Village board members approved their 2013-14 budget at a special meeting Monday.
A move by Trustee Scott Monroe that would have saved taxpayers a few dollars failed to pass, with two members of the board voting in favor of it and the other three voting to save the money for future years.
Total spending in the general fund is $5,708,723. That number is up by about 4.7 percent over the current year.
Randall attributed those increases to hikes in the prices of health insurance, worker compensation insurance and other benefits.
The final tax levy is $3,524,595. That’s just under the tax cap, which would have allowed a 2.39 percent increase over the current year’s levy.
The property tax rate will be $5.87 per $1,000 in assessed property value, down from $5.96 per $1,000 when this budget originally was drawn up.
Randall said a few changes were made since the budget was last discussed at a regular meeting on June 10. Those changes are based on discussions in administrative and working sessions since then, and also on the finalized property assessment roll, which came out in the past week, Randall said.
He called the assessment roll good news. The village originally expected its $592 million tax roll to decline by about $8 million, but instead it increased by about $1 million.
“That has a tendency to help us to the tune of 6 cents a thousand,” Randall said.
He also cut almost $30,000 from the police department’s part-time officer budget. He said the department has only used about 40 percent of its budget for the current year. He said the Ironman triathlon in July will eat up a portion of that, but it’s unlikely it will all get used, so he dropped next year’s budget for it from $90,000 to $62,000.
Randall noted that the tax cap will make budgeting difficult in the future, since it doesn’t increase as much as health insurance and other benefit costs do. A special resolution and a supermajority board vote would be required for a village budget to exceed the state-imposed cap.
After Randall explained the budget, he asked if there were any questions, and Monroe spoke up. The original budget had used $62,000 from the fund balance to offset taxes, but the new version didn’t do that. Monroe said he didn’t remember discussing that move and asked why it had happened.
Randall said using the reserves to reduce the tax levy would create problems in the future with the tax cap, since it would reduce the amount the village could increase taxes in future years. Because the assessment increase had helped drop taxes, the fund balance appropriation wasn’t as necessary, Randall said.
Monroe said he understood those points, but he noted that the village already decided to pay for two new trolleys from the current year’s fund balance, saving $28,000 from the 2013-14 budget. He proposed that at least part of the $62,000 again be appropriated to cut taxes.
Treasurer Peggy Mousaw ran the numbers and estimated that would reduce the increase by about $10 for someone who owns a $200,000 house.
Trustee Peter Holderied said $10 is incidental as a tax increase. Monroe said that may be the case for someone with a $200,000 home, but he said it’s a different story for people with multi-million-dollar houses. Randall said he’s more interested in protecting the people with cheaper houses than those with multi-million-dollar ones.
Trustee Jason Leon said there have been a number of purchases out of the current year’s fund balance that weren’t accounted for, so he was skeptical of adding to next year’s fund balance.
Leon and Monroe voted in favor of restoring the money to reduce the tax levy, while Randall and Holderied voted against it. Trustee Art Devlin kept quiet until his turn to vote. As everyone turned to look at him, he paused, then said he opposed it as well. He said he, too, wants to protect the lower-income homeowners and is nervous about benefit increases in the coming years.
“We’re going to need everything we can to fight that,” Devlin said.
Both Leon and Monroe voted against passing the general fund budget, but it passed with the three other board members voting in favor of it.
Randall drew up a few handouts to summarize the budget so people don’t have to sift through the 39-page document. He said he plans to put the summaries on the village’s website, but they weren’t posted anywhere easily found by Wednesday evening.
Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.