The Town of Charlton’s proposed budget unveiled to the Town Board last week included less than a one percent increase in overall spending, a slight dip into the reserve fund and no raises for town employees.
The budget from Supervisor Alan Grattidge included $897,350 in general spending and $727,394 for highway department spending, for a total of $1,624,744. This year’s total was about a $17,000 increase, with almost the entirety of it coming for highway spending. “This was the smallest increase I’ve seen year over year,” Grattidge said.
The largest increases in general spending came from mandatory costs, with a 16 percent rise in the town’s contribution to the New York state retirement system and escalating health-care costs.
Continuing with past budgets, neither the general spending nor the highway department costs will be paid with a town tax. Instead, they rely mostly on sales tax revenue that is distributed by the county and fines, fees, state aid and a mortgage-tax distribution.
“This year I was very conservative with the sales tax number,” Grattidge said. He anticipated the same amount as last year, predicting that there wouldn’t be a significant increase in revenue. He added, “I felt we hadn’t come out of the recession yet.”
This was in sharp contrast to the Saratoga County government, which he said anticipated an 8 percent increase in sales tax revenue and had overestimated their funds this year. “I did not share the rosy outlook on sales tax,” he said.
In order to absorb the lack of growth in revenue and the mandatory increases in spending, Grattidge said the budget includes new efficiencies and consolidation. In one instance, the job of zoning administrator and a contract person doing building inspections will be filled by a zoning administrator certified to do building inspections.
While the town will use about $40,000 from the reserve fund for general services, Grattidge rejected the idea that he should have taken out more to prevent any job consolidation. He said it was important to have a strong reserve fund in case of an emergency and estimated the town’s balance between $700,000 and $800,000.
Grattidge stressed that the cuts will not be accompanied by a loss of services.
The budget includes money for a new town website and $4,000 for a bulk item pickup. The latter is a popular program that has been scaled back to every other year because of budget concerns.
The lack of raises, Grattidge said, is an homage to the budget of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He said he wished there could be raises for employees, but felt like the town couldn’t afford them and is asking for understanding. “I’m following the governor’s template he set up with the state labor force,” he said.
Town officials are now in the process of holding workshops where they go over the budget line by line and take input from department heads or members of the public. This process will lead to a rough draft.
A public hearing on the rough draft of the budget will be held on Oct. 31. A final vote on the budget will be held the second Monday in November.
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