H’town tax levy under state’s cap

SARANAC LAKE – The tax levy in the town of Harrietstown would rise less than 3 percent next year and stay under the state’s tax cap, based on the preliminary 2014 town budget.

The town board will hold a public hearing on the $4.7 million spending plan tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the lower-level board room of the Harrietstown Town Hall.

The proposed budget includes a tax levy of $2,044,613, an increase of $56,705 or 2.85 percent over the current levy. The state’s tax cap for the town this year is $2,045,674, town budget officer Mike Kilroy wrote in a memo accompanying the preliminary budget.

“If we adopted the tentative budget as presented, we would be under the tax cap by approximately $1,061,” Kilroy wrote.

Supervisor Bob Bevilacqua said the board has worked hard in budget sessions over the last few weeks to get the levy under the cap.

“We’ll be just barely under, but we’ll be under it,” he told the Enterprise Wednesday. “There’s no real fat on (the budget). I told everybody when we started that we wanted a bare-bones budget, not a wish-list budget.”

To keep the tax levy increase in check, the town plans to apply $233,000 from its reserves, or fund balance, to the budget. It applied $273,500 last year.

Overall spending in the preliminary 2014 budget would increase 1.66 percent or $77,400, from $4,648,045 this year to $4,725,485.

Kilroy said the budget includes “substantial” increases for town court, specifically salary increases, due to its merger with the Harrietstown portion of village court, which will dissolve in April. The pay for each of the town’s two justices would increase from $8,456 each to $15,000 each while the town court clerk’s salary would rise from $18,465 to $30,765.

Since it will take over the busiest portion of village court, the town is expecting to see more revenue from fines. Kilroy has increased that budget line from $23,500 to $45,000.

Next year’s proposed budget also includes a $40,000 bond payment for repairs to the retaining wall behind the Harrietstown Town Hall. The town is hoping to offset the cost of that overall $330,000 project with funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The budget for the town-run Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear includes funding for one new employee and $10,000 to pay someone to oversee the airport’s operations while its manager, Corey Hurwitch, is away, Kilroy said. It would be a per-diem job, without benefits, Bevilacqua said. He said longtime town Councilman Barry DeFuria, whose term will expire at the end of the year, has expressed an interest in the job.

“I think we’ll probably need a couple people to fill that position,” Bevilacqua said. “I doubt it’s going to be just one person because that one person may not be available when you need them. Barry would certainly be qualified to do that. That’s what he does now when Corey’s out of town for a couple days.”

There are no raises in the budget for the town supervisor, board members, the budget officer or attorney, but most other employees would get 1.7 percent pay hikes. Bevilacqua said Hurwitch is slated to get a larger increase. The budget shows his salary would rise 5.5 percent, from $62,500 to $65,909.

“When he was hired, he was hired as the assistant manager, not the airport manager,” Bevilacqua said. “Even with this raise, he’ll still be below where he would have been had he been hired at the airport manager’s rate, and he’s operating without an assistant manager. He’s getting a bigger raise to make up for that difference that he’s due.”

While employee health insurance rates have seemed to increase regularly for local governments in recent years, Kilroy wrote that the town’s rates for 2014 are budgeted at roughly the same level as this year based on conversations with the town’s personnel consultants. State retirement system contributions are also expected to be relatively unchanged from this year, Kilroy wrote.

The town is considering phasing out health insurance benefits for board members. Bevilacqua said the subject will be discussed separately during the board’s regular meeting tonight. Currently only DeFuria and Councilman Ron Keough get health insurance from the town, while Councilwoman Nichole Meyette gets a stipend for not being on the town’s policy, Bevilacqua said.

Copies of the preliminary budget are available in the town clerk’s office on the first floor of the town hall.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.