Schenectady County

Niskayuna residents question recreation fund bump

A proposed increase in spending for the town Recreation Department drew criticism Thursday night at

A proposed increase in spending for the town Recreation Department drew criticism Thursday night at a public hearing on the 2012 budget.

Increase in the department’s budget lines come in response to increased participation, town board member Julie McDonnell said after speakers at the 2012 budget public hearing questioned them. McDonnell pointed to an expected increase in revenue, along with the expenditures.

“In reality, there’s no $68,000 increase in expenditures. These are the kinds of things that we do when we run a program,” McDonnell said. “We take the expenditures into our budget, and we take the revenues into our budget.”

The budget shows an increase for playground program personal services from $63,000 to $80,000, while the “Other Youth Programs – Misc.” line is increasing from $4,038 to $29,500. Overall, spending for youth recreation programs is increasing from $125,738 to $192,900, under the proposed plan.

On the other side of the ledger, however, playground program revenues are slated to increase from $70,000 to $85,000, other youth recreation fees from $25,000 to $31,000 and fall youth soccer fees from $31,000 to $41,000, among anticipated increases.

Resident Lorrene Zabin looked for explanation of the recreation fees.

“If these can be explained, and if these can have appropriate fee increases, that’s fine,” Zabin said, but she added that her reading of the budget showed a $68,000 increase in recreation.

“That’s a lot,” she said.

The issue also came up earlier in the evening, at a Budget Committee meeting. Board member Liz Orzel Kasper, who missed the start of the 5:30 meeting, asked about the playground program. Supervisor Joe Landry, though, attempted to move forward with the part of the budget they were on then, noting the area Kasper asked about was earlier.

That area was over by about 5:36 p.m.

“I can’t believe I can’t find this out in two seconds,” Kasper said.

Landry noted the start of the meeting. “Joe, I was in, I just wanted to know if we added something to the playground program for $15,000 or something.”

Town comptroller Paul Sebesta answered that it was the volume of children taking part in the program, with increased revenue that goes along with it.

Also at issue during the public hearing was a proposed new yard waste pickup fee. The budget includes a revenue line of $150,000 for leaf decals.

Resident Leslie Gold noted that the fees wouldn’t be able to be included in town taxes on a federal tax return.

Resident Mae Burgess told the board she believed the fee was a mistake. If residents have to pay for pickup individually, they won’t use it.

“All they’re going to do is either leave them on the street or put them in their backyard and make Niskayuna look sloppier than it is,” she said.

But Linda Rizzo, who unsuccessfully ran for town board this week, likened the fee to dog licenses, alarm fees and water bills, saying residents who choose to use it can pay for it.

The budget also calls for four full-time positions to be eliminated through attrition, one of them in the police department. Some speakers, including Zabin, questioned that reduction, Zabin calling it “disturbing.”

A special meeting has been scheduled for Nov. 17 to adopt the budget.

The budget as proposed calls for total appropriations of $13,246,114, up $235,455 over the current plan.

The tax rate for homeowners would be set at $2.40 per $1,000 of assessed value, up from just over $2.32 for 2011, marking an increase of about 3.4 percent. The budget, though, is within tax cap rules, town officials have said.

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