Saratoga County

Ballston budget proposal contains no raises, layoffs or town tax

A $200,000 reduction in spending and a withdrawal of about $187,000 from the reserve fund are includ

A $200,000 reduction in spending and a withdrawal of about $187,000 from the reserve fund are included in the town of Ballston’s tentative budget, which continues the trend of no town taxes to fund general services or the highway department.

Town Supervisor Patti Southworth’s $5.8 million proposal includes no raises for town employees, nor any layoffs. She said it was important that the town not lose any employees, because each department is already staffed with few people and cuts would be significantly felt.

According to Southworth, the major savings in her proposed budget came from reducing costs for health insurance by changing plans and procedures and cutting expenses for the Highway Department.

The budget is funded primarily by sales tax revenue that is distributed by the county, with the rest coming from fines, fees, state aid and a mortgage-tax distribution. More than three quarters of this revenue will go to the Highway Department. Another big chunk of the budget goes to the town’s numerous special districts, such as lighting and water, which are funded by a special district tax that varies based on the need of each district.

“My sales tax projections were conservative,” Southworth said, adding that this approach should keep the town from facing a surprise gap like the one Saratoga County will have to deal with.

“With [the county treasurer’s] history over the last few years … I have always budgeted on the conservative side,” she said. “I would rather see us budget conservative and be in good shape at the end of the year.”

Southworth added that the Town Board has taken issue in the past with her conservative projections, but at the end of the year they aren’t very far off.

Critics of Southworth recently took issue with the town’s lack of an independent audit since 2005. At Tuesday night’s board meeting, Republican Board member Tim Szczepaniak and Republican Supervisor challenger William Goslin both called for an independent audit.

Southworth, who is running on the Independence ballot line, responded to this interest by noting that the last estimate for an independent audit was $100,000, which the board had previously deemed to be a prohibitive cost. She added that it could be explored for the future.

Southworth’s budget anticipates expanded savings from a decision by the town Board last year that allows Ballston Lake EMS to bill patients they transport, if they have health insurance. Southworth said the ambulance squad needs $25,000 less for that reason, and added that a good portion of this revenue source will come from non-Ballston residents involved in accidents while driving through town.

One of the new expenses is $5,500 for technology upgrades designed to let town employees work faster, which include a new computer firewall and server and memory upgrades.

The proposed budget would have the town use about $187,000 of its reserve fund, which Southworth said will keep the balance over the minimum $700,000 threshold recommended by the state comptroller. She said the practice was “fine for a year,” but promised it would not become a “long-term strategy.”

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