Schenectady County

Board seeks financing to eliminate town deficit

The Town Board is seeking permission from the state Legislature to pursue financing to eliminate an

The Town Board is seeking permission from the state Legislature to pursue financing to eliminate an estimated $18 million town deficit.

The board Thursday approved the measure by a 4-3 party-line vote.

Democratic Town Supervisor Paula A. Mahan said such borrowing would be a “safety” net and not an ideal solution because of the interest that would accrue.

Mahan has another solution — a one time “deficit correction tax” on all residential and commercial property in town to resolve the financial problems. The bills would be based on the assessed value of a property and the projected average bill would be about $250.

Based on a sliding scale, homeowners with smaller homes or on fixed incomes would pay less and individuals with higher-priced homes would pay more; the maximum would be capped at $500.

Mahan proposed the tax Thursday, and while some town residents have been expressing concerns, worrying that it will not be a one-time tax, others say it’s fair and equitable.

But the three Republicans on the board — Nicole Criscione-Szesnat, J. Brian Hogan and Tom With — oppose the tax and said deficit financing is not necessary to resolve the deficit.

“It would be too extreme of a measure and an administrative burden to the staff, particularly the Town Comptroller’s office. We also do not support a tax increase. We do not believe there is a need for a special assessment of $250,” they said in a written summary of a Republican counterproposal released Friday.

Their plan will eliminate the deficit within the year and improve the town’s credit rating, they said.

The Republicans also disagree with the $18 million deficit figure, saying that based on preliminary audit figures by Bollam, Sheedy and Torani, the deficit at the end of 2006 is only $14.7 million. About $9.1 million of this is attributed to landfill closure costs, they noted, which won’t be due until the town landfill is closed in 12 to 15 years. The remainder of the deficit, $5.6 million, is the shortfall that is now due, they said.

Mahan is confident, based on auditors’ reports, including one by the state comptroller, that the $18 million deficit figure is accurate.

According to the Republicans’ plan, three enterprise funds show a surplus including the Latham Water District, $4.3 million; Pure Waters, $2.9 million; and the landfill. Although it shows a $7.2 million deficit, if the landfill closing costs not factored in it shows a $1.8 million operating surplus, they said.

While the two political parties continue to disagree on the precise size of the deficit, Mahan said that the legalities of the deficit correction tax are being examined and she intends to move forward with the plan, which the Town Board must approve.

She said that it’s the most fair and equitable plan to reduce the deficit.

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