Saratoga County

Saratoga Springs reports increase in surplus

The city ended 2010 with a $4.1 million surplus, more than $1 million more in budget surplus money t

The city ended 2010 with a $4.1 million surplus, more than $1 million more in budget surplus money than the city had at the end of 2009, city officials said.

“We are in much better shape,” said Finance Commissioner Kenneth Ivins on Wednesday.

Last fall, the City Council was struggling with the 2011 budget. Council members each cut portions of their departmental budgets to keep the tax rate as low as possible.

The City Council adopted a $36.1 million 2011 budget in late November that included a $46,000 increase in spending and a 4.45 percent property tax increase, down from an 8 percent tax hike projected in October 2010.

Ivins said the larger-than-expected budget surplus at the end of the 2010 fiscal year is the result of the work the council did to reduce spending throughout 2010 and “holding the line on personnel services and contractual services.”

At the end of the difficult 2009 fiscal year, the city had $2.8 million in surplus money.

Ivins said the city finance department closed its 2010 books recently with the $4.1 million in total surplus (which includes some of the $2.8 million balance from the 2009 city budget). The numbers have yet to be audited and could change slightly, Ivins said.

The city was able to collect more than $9 million in sales tax revenue in 2010, the most ever collected by the city. The sales tax numbers for the months of November and December 2010 were much higher than sales tax revenue generated during those months in 2009. The good sales tax news was announced in early March.

Earlier this month, the city also learned that it would again be receiving video lottery terminal revenue-sharing money from the state after not receiving any in 2009 and 2010. The city expects $1.49 million in VLT money from the state sometime in late June.

The Saratoga Casino and Raceway, which has more than 1,700 VLTs, is located on Crescent Avenue.

Ivins has asked city residents to send the city Finance Department written suggestions on how the city should spend some of the unexpected VLT money. The deadline for suggestions is April 29.

The VLT money can only be used to help defray costs of hosting a VLT facility, such as police, court and DPW costs, or to lower property taxes.

“But we have uncertain times ahead,” Ivins cautioned, despite the good financial news.

“Gas prices are going up,” Ivins said. “I am concerned with the gas prices.”

He said the high gas prices will increase this year’s expense lines in the budgets of the city DPW and police and fire departments.

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