Schenectady County

Scotia mayor’s budget plan has 4.9% tax hike

The village tax rate would rise about 4.9 percent under a tentative budget proposed this week by May

The village tax rate would rise about 4.9 percent under a tentative budget proposed this week by Mayor Kris Kastberg.

The $6.2 million budget would increase the tax rate by 53 cents to $11.26 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. An average house assessed at $125,000 in taxes would pay roughly $66 more a year to $1,408.

Kastberg said nobody is happy about raising taxes but the village is being hit with big increases in health insurance, retirement and worker’s compensation costs. Health care expenses are going up 9 percent and worker’s compensation is going up 24 percent.

The village will pay an estimated $713,750 for health and dental insurance for the Fire, Police and Public Works departments, which is a 30 percent increase from last year. Retirement costs for Police and Fire departments are going up by about 27 percent to $377,000.

Kastberg proposes to tap $300,000 from surplus. He said he doesn’t want to drain the reserves too much because it will hurt the village in the long run.

“Sooner or later you’ve got to pay the piper. You’ll run out of fund balance in no time at all,” he said.

Kastberg said he looked at potential items to cut — reducing the village paving program, eliminating its sidewalk grant program, not purchasing a public works truck, eliminating garbage pickup, eliminating the appliance pickup, closing the Flint House and Freedom Park. He didn’t like any of those options.

Trustee Tom Neals said he agreed. “Every one of the programs, I think we owe it to the residents.”

Some items have been eliminated in the budget including the DARE anti-drug education program for children. “We can’t afford the overtime,” Kastberg said.

There has been research showing that it doesn’t make a difference but the village liked having children get to know police officers.

Village Clerk Maria Schmitz added that department heads submitted budgets based on actual expenses rather than prior year requests. Kastberg built the budget a little bit tighter.

He also trimmed $8,000 from the public works budget because the department believes it can do more of its own chipping in house and save on tipping fees.

“I was really hoping I could find more [savings],” he said.

A major budgeted item is $25,000 for a new pickup truck that will help augment the fleet.

Trustee Cathy Gatta questioned whether $60,000 was too much to budget for salt, which Kastberg said he would revisit. Trustee Tom Gifford said the village should explore getting prescription drugs from Canada as Schenectady County does for its employees.

One idea that could be explored in the future is raising fees, according to Kastberg. The village is in the middle of a study of its sewer rates. One idea is to create a new sewer district encompassing the industrial park. Another item that will affect the rate is a new contract with the Schenectady wastewater treatment plant. Scotia is just beginning negotiations now.

A public hearing will be held on April 12 at 7 p.m. at village hall.

Neals said he believes it is a fiscally responsible budget.

“Considering that a lot of municipalities are laying off and cutting services, I think we’ve done a fairly good job of holding the line,” he said.

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