NISKAYUNA — Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed’s tentative budget comes without a tax increase for town property owners.
The 42-page document, filed Monday evening at Edwin D. Reilly Jr. Niskayuna Town Hall, lists a preliminary budget total of $15,798,692.
Taxes also remained flat in the 2019 budget. In November 2018, the Town Board approved a revised budget that placed total revenues at $15,370,107.
Syed said the 2020 increase in the total budget number is due to a projected hike in health insurance premiums for town employees.
“Every budget has its difficulties, every budget is different year to year,” Syed said Monday night during an interview at Town Hall.
“You never know what to expect and in this particular year we have all of our contractually obligated salary increases for our union employees,” Syed added. “We also have a 2-percent cost-of-living increase and then we also had to deal with this potential increase in health insurance premiums. We know there’s going to be an increase, we just don’t know how much it’s going to be.”
Syed said a 15-percent increase for health insurance has been projected. “We’re hoping it will come in under that, that it won’t be as high as 15 percent,” she said.
Taxes have remained flat, Syed said, because savings from prior years have been utilized for health insurance premiums. “We budgeted in excess of what our health insurance premiums were for the last two years so we can now re-capture those savings and apply them this year,” she said.
Syed expects discussion on the budget.
“That’s part of the process and we have three forthcoming budget workshops,” she said. The first workshop will be held Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Town Hall, open to the public.
Other budget workshops will be held Thursday, Oct. 10, and Thursday, Oct. 17, both at 5 p.m.
A vote to adopt the preliminary budget and call for a public hearing will take place Tuesday, Oct. 22. A public hearing on the preliminary budget will be held Thursday, Nov. 7. A vote to adopt the budget has been scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 19.
“There are always going to be questions afterward,” Syed said. “As we move toward the final budget, that’s what I’m looking forward to doing now, working together with all the Town Board members so that we can pass a final budget that everyone is pleased with.”
Last year there were discussions about cuts to the town’s cable television and pool operations, money that later was restored. Those expenditures have been maintained for 2020, Syed said.
Councilwoman Denise Murphy McGraw talked about the budget process.
“The Town Board is committed to crafting a solid fiscal plan that keeps the taxpayers’ bottom line first and foremost,” she said.
Earlier, Syed offered a statement concerning her proposed budget.
She said investments in public safety would continue.
“In order to keep Niskayuna a safe community, the 2020 tentative budget maintains funding for current staffing levels as well as provides funding for the addition of staff to comply with the new state mandated discovery laws,” she said.
“Discovery” laws are designed to modernize and make more fair the criminal discovery rules, providing measures to ensure the safety of witnesses. The laws are supposed to improve both parties’ access to information, reduce possibility of wrongful convictions, and ensure more prompt disposition of criminal cases.
Syed also said the tentative budget included “continued investments” in town operations.
“In order to improve operational efficiency, the 2020 tentative budget provides funding for the maintenance of addition of staff within the Comptroller’s Office in order to sustain dedicated attention to human resources and comply with state mandated training,” she said.
Syed said she believes the budget is “responsible, fair and fiscally sound.”
“I am proud of the investments we are making to our community,” she said. “I look forward to entertaining questions from the public, press, and Town Board members on the goals and specifics of this budget.”