Saratoga County

Stillwater budget plan nearly level

The Town of Stillwater’s $5.5 million proposed budget keeps town and highway tax rates the same, but

The Town of Stillwater’s $5.5 million proposed budget keeps town and highway tax rates the same, but assessed evaluations have increased about a total of $10,000.

The tentative budget from town Supervisor Ed Kinowski keeps spending relatively flat, includes a conservative sales tax projection and barely uses any of Stillwater’s reserve funds.

The only area of major growth in the budget was with mandatory contributions to the retirement system for town workers. “You can’t help that,” said Kinowski, who was pleased with how spending was contained on the other mandatory expenditure, health insurance contributions.

There was only a 2 percent rise in health insurance costs for the town, which Kinowski attributes to the selection of CDPHP as a provider last year. He said they had promised to control spending and it appears they have kept their promise.

Pay raises are missing from this year’s budget but, Kinowski said, “The board members might say they’d like an increased salary here or there.”

He doubted there would be any raises and predicted that increased hours for some staff might be approved instead. In particular, Kinowski said he would push for additional hours for planning and building employees while crafting the final budget.

The approval of additional hours has become somewhat common for Stillwater, which hasn’t been replacing certain position to save money. One area of savings through attrition was the loss of two town Highway Department employees who were not replaced.

The Highway Department has a budget of $1.91 million and Kinowski says that is a slight decrease compared to 2011. He said it is based on a reduction of road repair projects and a decrease of equipment purchases for 2012 compared to 2011.

“Generally, spending overall is pretty flat,” he said.

The largest source of revenue for the town is sales tax, which was projected with only a slight amount of growth from 2011. Kinowski said the 2011 budget projected 4 percent growth in sales tax and the 2012 budget will have even less growth, with only a 1 percent increase in sales tax revenue.

Kinowski is also predicting about $220,000 in mortgage tax revenue. This number is about what has been seen in recent years, which is much lower than the nearly $400,000 the town used to rake in during the peak years of the housing boom. While there’s not a lot of building going on in Stillwater, Kinowski said people are still coming into the town.

“We’re seeing an increase. I think the town of Stillwater will remain stable,” he said. “That may drop, but I’m keeping [the projection] there.”

A change in the budget from previous administrations, according to Kinowski, is his lack of reliance on the reserve fund, with only $127,000 being used this year.

He said the town was spending too much of these assets in the past and is uncomfortable with how low its reserve fund is now. “I’d rather have more,” he said.

The town has between $450,000 and $600,000 available in its overall reserve fund.

The state Comptroller recommends a municipality have about 10 percent of its spending in its reserve fund, which would be about $550,000 in this case.

Overall, though, Kinowski said, “I would say Stillwater’s budget is comfortable the way it is.”

He added that the town has the ability to pick up loans for capital projects and noted that its 2011 spending looked like it would end the year in good shape.

The first budget workshop is on Saturday at 10 a.m. in the town hall meeting room. The public is invited to come.

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