Niskayuna to consider fund balance policy


The Niskayuna Town Board is expected to vote on the adoption of a fund balance policy and establish a capital reserve fund at its March 26 meeting.

Board members on Tuesday night listened to Supervisor Yasmine Syed’s presentation on fund balance policy, during their monthly agenda meeting.

“It’s a guideline for us as a town as to how we should be handling our fund balance for the general fund and the highway fund,” Syed said. “We have built up a sizable amount of fund balance, it’s a healthy fund balance, so it’s a good thing.

“But there are ways it should be appropriated that are the most prudent, that are actually recommended by the office of the state Comptroller,” Syed added. “So with all those things in mind we just want to make sure we are being as prudent as possible with the taxpayer dollars.”

Syed said the general fund, or surplus, contains well over $3 million. There’s more than $1.5 million in the highway fund.

Syed, in fund balance policy papers made available to the press, explained fund balance as the total of a fund’s assets minus its liabilities.

“The general fund is used to record all assets and liabilities that are not associated with special-purpose funds and constitutes the core operating administrative expenses of a government entity,” the policy statement read.

It continued, “Capital reserve fund is used for the acquisition, construction or reconstruction of a capital improvement or the acquisition of equipment.”

In the presentation, Syed said prior to January 2001, municipalities could not carry over any unappropriated and-or unreserved balance. A 2000 change in state law said municipalities could carry over a “reasonable amount” of unappropriated, unreserved fund balance from one year to the next.

Adopting a fund balance policy, according to the Comptroller’s office, could offset tax increases, create a cushion for revenue shortfalls during hard economic times and encourage long-term capital planning initiatives – among other advantages.

Councilwoman Denise Murphy McGraw is for the adoption of a fund balance policy for the town.

“We’re the ones who called for it in the budget, we wanted it in the budget,” McGraw said, of board members. “The supervisor and I have been meeting since then to try to develop the policy.”

McGraw also said she was glad Syed is supporting the board’s call for such policy.

“During the budget process, when the supervisor proposed a raid of our reserve fund to help pay for her proposed budget,” McGraw said, “the Town Board became concerned about the impact of her actions on our Standard & Poor financial rating.

“We then began discussing a fund balance policy with the comptroller,” McGraw added. “I look forward to moving forward on this important action.”

Syed said the policy will be discussed March 20, during a special morning meeting of the town’s Finance Committee. She added that several local communities have adopted fund balance policies.

In other business discussed Tuesday at Edwin D. Reilly Jr. Niskayuna Town Hall:

* Board members met during the Community Programs Committee session to further discuss the upcoming Niskayuna Farmers Market planned for three Saturday mornings – one each in July, August and September.

Lisa Weber, who chairs the committee, and others talked about the possibility of N-CAP (Niskayuna Community Action Program) picking up the insurance cost for the three markets, which will begin July 13 in the side lot of the Niskayuna Co-op on Nott Street.

Coverage will be needed to ensure the town, the co-op and vendors are not liable in case someone falls or is injured during market hours, 9 a.m. until noon.

“It’s to protect everyone involved,” Weber said.

Police Chief Daniel McManus said one off-duty police officer hired for a farmers market shift – crossing pedestrians from the co-op’s main parking lot – would cost $100 an hour for three hours’ work. If a second officer was employed for the market detail, maybe crossing pedestrians from the Via Del Mar and Clifton Park Road areas, another $300 would be required.

McManus said police would not have to be on the premises for set-up and break-down times.

Highway Superintendent Ray Smith said his crews could drop off barricades and garbage bags on Friday and pick-up barricades and garbage after the event. “That would mean no personnel hours for me,” he said.

Members of N-CAP may also be approached to manage the market, coordinate vendors and ensure things run smoothly.

“We need a farm manager,” said Deputy Town Attorney Paul Briggs. “Someone who can take care of those kinds of issues.”

* The Town Board also will soon consider a resolution vote supporting an Assembly bill prohibiting the distribution of single-use plastic bags – bags often used in supermarkets that can cause ecological trouble.

“We’re calling on the state to do this,” McGraw said. “We are not interested in having a Niskayuna-only plastic bag law, some communities have gone to that. We think that puts our supermarkets and our other vendors at a competitive disadvantage if they have to accommodate special bags. They would have to make some changes to their check-out areas because the larger bags take up more space.

“We just want to make sure there’s uniformity,” McGraw added. “But we do certainly support what’s happening on the state level, a real effort to address these plastic bags.”

* With snow beginning to melt, contractors may soon be repairing the damaged Avon Crest sign.

The landmark sign nearly was wrecked when a motorist smashed into it in February. Ray Smith said the motorist’s insurance company has been in touch with the town.

Smith also said he has contacted three contractors.

“I will follow up with them and get that moving,” he said.

Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected].


Categories: -News-, Saratoga County, Schenectady County

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