Schenectady County

Special deficit tax plan in Colonie fails

The state Legislature ended its session without approving a one-time tax by the town to help reduce
PHOTOGRAPHER:

The state Legislature ended its session without approving a one-time tax by the town to help reduce an $18 million town deficit this year.

It’s likely the tax bill will now go out in the regular town tax bills in January, said town Supervisor Paula Mahan.

Approval by the Legislature would have allowed the town to send out a mid-year bill in October.

Mahan said on Wednesday that the backup plan all along was that if the bill was not approved by the Legislature in June, the town would pursue the tax in January.

“It is strictly a corrective action as part of a financial plan,” Mahan said. “It’s protecting the taxpayers from being burdened with a longtime tax or asking a control board to come in and take over the town’s finances.”

Mahan proposed the “one-time deficit tax” several months ago to help reduce the town’s $18 million financial gap, but collecting the mid-year tax required approval by the Legislature.

It was sponsored in the Senate by a Democrat, Neil Breslin of Delmar, and in the Assembly by Democrat Bob Reilly. It had passed in the Assembly last week.

Mahan said she’s disappointed by the delay and said if the tax was collected in October, the town could have worked more quickly to reduce its deficit.

“Town officials will re-evaluate our timeline and act more aggressively for property sales to generate cash for cash-flow problems,” she said.

Some town-owned properties that might be sold to help make up the town’s deficit include the old highway garage on Route 155, and Mahan said she’s had discussions with North Colonie schools.

A parcel near Town Hall in back of the Newtonville Post Office and the Colonie Community Center on Central Avenue might also be sold. The deal to sell the town’s share of Heritage Park for $4 million to Albany County is almost final.

To save money, town department heads are being asked to cut 20 percent across the board for 2009, and the town is reducing capital expenditures by 50 percent, from $10 million to $5 million, said Mahan.

“We are not doing anything that’s not absolutely necessary,” said Mahan, who took office in January after defeating long-time Republican Supervisor Mary Brizzell.

The town also reached an agreement with a trash hauler to the town landfill that will bring in an additional $1.5 million.

The town also remains in contact with Moody’s Investor Services and plans a follow-up meeting in the fall to discuss the town’s finances.

With a one-time tax, town officials said, about 90 percent of homeowners would pay under $250 and the average levy would be $155.

Commercial property owners would pay an average of $533.70.

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