GLENVILLE — The town of Glenville is reconsidering plans for a new town hall as it prepares for expected revenue losses due to the impact of the coronavirus economic disruptions.
The town is in good fiscal shape to weather a downturn, Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said during a Facebook Live and public webinar Wednesday night, but it may need to decide whether to keep pursuing plans for a new town hall on land adjoining the current one.
Town officials had hoped to move forward with the $7 million project this year, and the Town Board hired an architect to develop plans in December. The plans call for erecting a new town hall building, and converting the existing one into a building entirely for the Police Department and Town Court system. A previously awarded $1.5 million state grant would help pay for the police station renovations, which are needed to modernize the facilities and improve security.
In addition to the state grant, the town also has $500,000 set aside in a reserve fund for the new town hall. That would leave the town needing to borrowing $5 million, which Koetzle said would increase the average property tax bill by about $20 per year.
Koetzle is going through the capital projects that were included in the town’s $19.4 million budget to see which need to proceed, which can be suspended and which could proceed in a scaled back form. The town hall project would be the biggest potential capital expense.
Koetzle said a new town hall is needed because of the inadequacies of the current building, even if the town decided not to act for now. He said he understands people may be concerned about such a large expenditure during uncertain times.
“I know I believe we need it, but I’m not advocating for any particular solution,” Koetzle said. “There is uncertainty, but this may be the best time to try to do something.”
Doing nothing about a new town hall, he said, would still leave town offices in an inadequate building that needs significant repairs, and the town could lose the $1.5 million state police grant.
The economic shutdown is expected to cause major expense increases and revenue losses at all levels of government, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said the state’s response to a projected $10 billion to $15 billion state revenue shortfall could include cutting back on planned local government aid payments, which are expected to bring Glenville nearly $500,000 for general purpose and highway spending.
The impact of the shutdown on the real estate industry and mortgage tax revenue could cost the town anywhere from $80,000 to $140,000, Koetzle estimated, and with the town courts closed, court revenue could be down anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000.
The Schenectady County sales tax agreement, which Koetzle has long argued shortchanges Glenville and other towns, is due to expire in November, which Koetzle called “a long-term threat to us.”
On the other hand, the supervisor said the town came into 2020 in the best financial shape it has been in in more than a decade, with town debt having been reduced by $11 million since 2009, and the town drawing less money annually from surplus funds. Glenville’s tax base has also increased, Koetzle noted. “Residents should feel confident the town is well-prepared,” he said.
The pandemic has not resulted in significant new expenses for the town — its grocery delivery program is run with volunteers. But Koetzle said he is concerned that Glenville’s contribution to the state retirement system, which is highly dependent on stock market returns, will spike upward by $200,000 or more next year. He is also concerned that the town’s health insurance premium bill will rise by as much as $200,000 in 2021.
Koetzle said no decisions about whether to proceed with the town hall project will be made until state restrictions on in-person town meetings are lifted, so town officials and the public can discuss the town’s financial condition and its building needs face to face. He said the Town Board wants to hear what residents think. The town will be sending out a resident survey in the near future.
“I just want everyone to be informed. I want us to make an informed decision,” he said. “I’m not going to advocate strongly for any position.