Saratoga County

Milton bites bullet and nips taxpayers for 2012

Town officials have cut Milton’s preliminary 2012 budget by about 10 percent and plan a more than 76

Town officials have cut Milton’s preliminary 2012 budget by about 10 percent and plan a more than 76 percent property tax levy increase to avoid using up all of the town’s rainy day money.

The initial budget, at $6.74 million, included a miniscule increase in town property taxes but depleted the reserve fund. Now the budget includes $6 million in spending and draws about $856,000 from the reserve fund.

It also generates $524,507 from property taxes instead of $296,923, as was initially planned.

Because Milton town taxes are so low — 18.9 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value in the village, 27.1 cents outside the village — raising another $227,000 through the tax levy amounts to a 76.6 percent tax rate increase.

This vastly exceeds the state’s new 2 percent tax cap and as such, the budget will need to be approved by at least four of the five Town Board members.

Town officials could not provide exact numbers yet but said the tax rate would increase by about 20 cents. That would yield a tax rate of roughly 39 cents in the village and 47 cents outside the village, and a tax bill of $78 and $94, respectively, on a $200,000 house.

Incoming Town Supervisor Dan Lewza — who has been sitting in with the Town Board and outgoing supervisor Frank Thompson on the budget process — said, “Nobody wants to raise taxes but I feel this year it was a necessary evil.”

The biggest cuts in spending were to the town Highway Department, which lost $350,000 that had been planned for a road paving project.

Additional cuts include ending stipends for the town’s Planning and Zoning boards, which will save $42,790. “This could result in an exodus,” said Town Board member Joe Miranda about the future of those two boards. “We thought [stipends] might encourage people to serve on the boards.”

Salaries for Town Board members also were reduced and the town will forego a $17,000 investment to revamp its 10-year-old comprehensive plan.

Another big change comes in the health plans for town employees, who will be required to contribute 10 percent to their health premiums for 2012. This will increase in 2013 to 15 percent. “That’s the reality of today,” Miranda said.

All of these last-minute maneuvers will keep the reserve fund above the recommended safe threshold established by the state Comptroller’s Office, but Miranda said he would like to see the fund made even a little stronger in the future.

Looking at next year’s prospects, Lewza said he is optimistic. He foresees areas of growth for the town that can expand its tax base, like with the Town Center, where there are 30 acres that could be developed.

In order to avoid the crunch of the past month, he said his administration will begin reviewing the budget in January and meet every month to plan ahead. “Just putting it together a month before it needs to be passed is a poor way of doing things,” he said.

Lewza’s goal is to eliminate the town taxes in six to eight years. “That’s the whole reason I ran in the first place,” he said.

Before that point there could be more tough decisions, as Miranda said the board may have to look at cutting positions over the next couple years through attrition. He described this as an “emotional” issue, but acknowledged, “Those are where most of the costs are.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply