Schenectady County

Use of fund balance eyed to keep Rotterdam budget in line

Supervisor Harry Buffardi introduced a tentative budget that increases spending, but will keep the t

Supervisor Harry Buffardi introduced a tentative budget that increases spending, but will keep the town within the parameters set by the state’s 2 percent cap.

The $21.54 million spending plan includes no layoffs or cuts to services, the supervisor reported during Wednesday’s Town Board meeting. The budget does, however, rely on roughly $300,000 of fund balance to keep general fund spending beneath the cap.

“I realize that we need to reduce our dependence on fund balance and I have reduced in the 2013 budget the appropriated fund balance used to reduce taxes by $500,000,” Buffardi said after introducing his budget.

Including special districts, the budget increases spending by $494,844 over the previous year. General fund spending will increase by roughly $315,000 over the 2012 budget proposal.

Under the town’s dual tax rate system, homeowners will pay about $3.66 per $1,000 of assessed property value to support the general and highway funds. A home assessed at $200,000 could expect tax bill of about $732 before special districts are included.

Buffardi intends to send the budget to an ad hoc committee composed of residents, which will soon be established to give the board input on potential modifications. He anticipates having the group organized to begin picking through the budget by next month.

“Maybe at one of these meetings they’ll come up with something we missed,” he said.

In most areas, the budget maintains line items set forth in the spending plan approved for 2012. The budget reflects the town switching Assessor John Macejka Jr. back to a full-time worker and provides Town Attorney Kate McGuirl a $2,500 raise over the $75,000 she was scheduled to earn this year.

The budget also provides an additional $20,000 for a senior account specialist in the receiver of taxes office. Buffardi said the money was shifted from the Highway Department budget. Donna Larson was moved into the tax office position earlier this year.

Meanwhile, several other positions funded in the 2012 budget were either reduced or eliminated. A full-time typist position in the town’s Justice Court was reduced to part time and a vacant bookkeeper’s position in the comptroller’s office was eliminated.

Buffardi said the budget again relies on some of the reserve funds from the town’s special districts. But in each case, he said the budget only allocates the funds for work conducted by employees paid out of the general fund.

“We actually segregated it out,” he said. “We’ve got it figured down to the minute.”

Buffardi acknowledged the budget won’t be popular with everyone. The spending plan holds the line on nearly all raises — including among the town’s unionized workers — and reduces the highway department’s paving allowances to a minimum.

“There’s some harshness to this budget,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

The budget also includes increases to certain town fees. However, the spending plan does not include revenue for yard waste removal, a fee that was being mulled by town officials during the summer.

Buffardi has until Friday to submit a proposed budget. The town is expected to host a public hearing on the spending plan later this month with the anticipation of approving it sometime in November.

Board member Robert Godlewski was left unimpressed by the tentative proposal, claiming that it plays a numbers game to push the tax rate increase below the tax cap. And he pledged to dissect the plan meticulously to show where it masks fiscal irresponsibility.

“It’s all smoke and mirrors,” he said of the budget.

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