Schenectady County

Princetown budget avoids taxing residents

Once again, Princetown residents won’t have to pay property taxes to support their local government,

Once again, Princetown residents won’t have to pay property taxes to support their local government, even though the town’s 2011 budget does slightly increase spending.

The tentative spending plan allocates about $11,000 more in general fund spending than the 2010 budget — a 1.6 percent increase. But the budget also reduces highway fund spending by about $20,000.

The budget includes $699,528 in spending and is offset by about $184,000 allocated from the fund balance. This is a slight increase from the previous year’s budget, which relied upon roughly $168,000 from existing reserves.

Historically, the small town of about 2,000 residents has made do without having to tax property owners. Supervisor Melanie Whiteley said she wasn’t about to start taxing them now, even though nondiscretionary costs increased this year.

“We’re being very conservative and watching our spending,” she said Tuesday. “The goal is to maintain no town taxes.”

Whitely said all departments made a concerted effort to eliminate waste, which has resulted in the town enjoying no local taxes. She said these efforts included everything from finding cheaper sources to buy supplies to turning down the heat when Town Hall isn’t open.

“Everyone at Town Hall is making a big effort to cut costs wherever they can, and it’s paying off,” she said.

Attorney fees for the town doubled in the budget. The town will allocate $40,000 for its privately contracted counsel, according to the budget.

Eliminated from the budget was $1,000 for the Princetown Civic Committee and $1,000 for youth programs. Code enforcement also saw a decrease in funding of about $10,000, according to the budget.

The budget includes $32,000 to fund the Rotterdam Emergency Medical Service, the nonprofit ambulance company now serving the town. That contribution could eventually be zeroed out if the adjacent town of Rotterdam decides to contact with the for-profit Mohawk Ambulance, something that would effectively eliminate the lion’s share of REMS’ funding.

Property owners in Rotterdam are expected to vote on whether to adopt a tax district to support REMS in December. Rotterdam Supervisor Frank Del Gallo eliminated funding for REMS from his 2011 budget and has said he intends to contract with Mohawk if the tax district fails.

Rotterdam officials haven’t passed any binding resolutions that would give the town’s contract to either service, even though they’ve publicly indicated that the tax district would only go to support REMS.

Whiteley isn’t sure what Princetown will do if the tax district fails and REMS is dissolved. “That’s up in the air,” she said.

Last week, a representative from Mohawk attended the Town Board’s meeting to reassure Princetown that its ambulance needs will be fulfilled if the for-profit company begins serving Rotterdam. Daniel Gilmore, Mohawk’s director of operations, said the one 24-hour ambulance proposed to be stationed in Rotterdam would also be able to serve Princetown.

But Mohawk won’t add a second ambulance to cover both communities or build a station nearer to or within Princetown. Gilmore said there simply isn’t enough call volume to support such a move.

“We would build something in Rotterdam, but not here,” he said. “The call volume out here, quite frankly, wouldn’t support an ambulance.”

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