Proposed Scotia budget increases taxes 5 percent

Mayor says village needs to draw less from fund balance
Scotia Village Hall in 2015
Scotia Village Hall in 2015

SCOTIA — Scotia needs to increase property taxes nearly 5 percent to make up for rising costs and falling reserves, Mayor Thomas Gifford said.

The proposed spending plan totals about $8 million, which covers police and fire protection, the village Public Works Department and village office functions.

Gifford said Monday that while review of the budget continues, he believes the village tax rate will need to increase about 4.9 percent, which would break the 2 percent tax cap. Gifford said the proposed rate would increase the taxes for an average home about $67 per year.

“I talked to a lot of people while campaigning last year and heard over and over again that you want to maintain the services provided by the village while keeping the taxes as low as possible,” Gifford wrote in a message late last week to village residents. “Since the institution of the tax cap seven years ago we have economized in every way we can think of and costs of everything continue to rise.”

The Village Board will discuss the proposed 2019-2020 budget plans when it meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Village Hall, and hold the official public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 10, also at the Village Hall.

Gifford, a Democrat who had been a village trustee for many years before being elected mayor last fall, said that for several years the village has been drawing off its surplus to support the operating budget rather than break the tax cap. The surplus, also called a fund balance, was once about $2 million, but has dropped to about $1 million. “I’m very uncomfortable with that trend,” Gifford said.

“We’ve been doing our best to stay under the tax cap, but that hasn’t kept up with inflation,” Gifford said.

Gifford said he doesn’t want to see the balance drop much lower. “For a village our size, a $500,000 balance wouldn’t be enough. In case of an emergency, you have to have some money available,” he said.

In addition, the village must reach contracts with all three of the employee unions covering firefighters, police and Department of Public Works employees. Gifford said the village also plans to hire two new paid firefighters to make up for the lack of volunteer firefighters available during the day.

Gifford said health care and pension costs are also rising faster than the rate of inflation. He plans to talk about the issues facing the village at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I’m hoping people can come and learn about the constraints we are under,” Gifford said. “This isn’t something we’re doing for fun.”

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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