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Glenville residents to have their say on town budget at forums

Tuesday, September 3, 2013
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— It’s that time of the year, when Glenville residents get to offer their opinion on how the town should spend their money.

The first of two public forums on the upcoming 2014 budget will be held tonight at 6:30 at Town Hall. Town officials will present 2012 budget highlights and projections for the 2013 budget, then open up the floor for a question-and-answer session.

“I’ve done this every year as supervisor,” said Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle. “The whole thing we’re trying to do is facilitate conversation between residents and elected officials, so I think it helps both residents and officials learn something from each other and have a good dialogue about the issues we’re facing. The point of it is that we’re not crafting the budget in a vacuum. We’re trying to engage many different people and get the best possible budget we can.”

This year, the budget process will focus on how the town should deal with projected deficits in its highway and water funds. The water fund ran a $12,000 deficit last year, owing in part to a wet year and the increased cost of employee benefits. Revenue from other municipalities is expected to fall under budget. Meanwhile, an early retirement resulted in an unexpected early payout that drove up the town’s highway fund expenses.

Water sales were $1.12 million in 2012, down $180,000 from the year before. More rainfall meant fewer people needed to water their lawns, said Koetzle, so metered water sales ended up being down for the fourth consecutive year. Expenses in this fund were up in some areas and down in others. Utilities and net debt service expenses fell from 2011, but employee benefits rose 11 percent last year from $190,000 to $210,000.

Water fund revenue that the town receives from the nearby towns of Ballston and Charlton is expected to fall $10,000 under budget in 2013 due to changes in municipal equalization rates.

“If you look at 2012, the short story is that we had surpluses in every account except for the water fund,” said Koetzle. “We haven’t raised rates on the water fund in years, so we’ll have to take a look at how to get that fund to stop posting a deficit.”

Although the highway fund ended last year with a surplus of $155,000, it is now on track to finish the year with a deficit, data from the last six months indicate. Despite a steady revenue stream from Metroplex sales tax and fuel sales outside of town, the highway fund will be $45,000 over budget because of the retirement payout.

“We had a retirement this year that we weren’t ready for,” explained Koetzle. “We weren’t told when we were budgeting for the year that it was going to happen, so we had to come up with the $45,000 out of the fund balance. Fuel sales went up a bit. But it was really that retirement payout that got us. So this year, we’re looking at things like this a little closer.”

About a quarter of all town employees are on track to be eligible for the state retirement system by the end of next year, he said.

“We are potentially looking at a budget that could pay out $350,000 to half a million dollars if these retirements are realized,” said Koetzle. “Once people are eligible, they tend to retire. So we have to manage against that at some point in this budget. We’ve known we’ve had an aging population for some time, and now we’re going to start facing some of those challenges.”

Koetzle said there are no plans to submit a 2014 budget that is over the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap, which fell to a 1.66 percent cap this year because of a slowdown in inflation.

Another public forum will be held at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Glenville Senior Center.

Koetzle must submit his tentative budget to the town clerk by Sept. 30. After a review by the Town Board, changes must be submitted by Oct. 16. There will then be a Nov. 7 public hearing on a preliminary budget, and a final budget must be adopted by Nov. 20.

 
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