NISKAYUNA — A proposed raise for Niskayuna Supervisor Jaime Puccioni is the only outstanding item to be decided in the town’s proposed 2023 budget.
With the Town Board expected to vote on the proposed $19.2 spending plan at its Nov. 17 meeting, the supervisor said she is still weighing the proposed $4,700 raise for her office that is included in the town’s preliminary budget.
If approved, Puccioni’s 2023 salary would increase from the 2022 rate of $53,800 to $58,500 next year.
In the aftermath of a public budget hearing held on Oct. 25, the supervisor noted the proposed 2023 budget is expected to remain intact heading into the board’s Nov. 17 budget vote, with the supervisor salary increase the only item that could potentially be amended in the coming weeks.
“I expect the key decisions made in the preliminary budget to remain moving to the final budget vote,” Puccioni said on Friday. “There is broad agreement among the board for the 0% residential tax increase, maintaining the level of services and programs that our residents need and expect, and also for eliminating the use of short-term debt in favor of making appropriate use of fund balance to allocate previously collected tax dollars to reduce the tax burden, essentially returning tax dollars to the residents. As I said at the hearing on Tuesday [Oct. 25], the one issue still under consideration in the budget is the wage increase for the office of the supervisor. For my part, I continue to examine the issue thoroughly and thoughtfully.”
Puccioni said she would continue discussing the potential raise with the board in the run up to the November vote.
Town Board Member Jason Moskowitz, the lone Republican on the board, said prior to the public hearing that he was reserving judgment on the proposal until he heard community input on the budget.
After hearing from the public at last week’s meeting, Moskowitz said that he is prepared to support the proposed 2023 budget.
“This preliminary budget holds the line on taxes, maintains services and eliminates the need for bonding,” Moskowitz said on Friday. “I listened very carefully to our department heads during their budget presentations and I listened very carefully to comments that were made during Tuesday’s public hearing. I have also spoken to several residents individually regarding the budget overall. While my stance on certain items is very well documented, I believe the pros far outweigh the cons and I believe that it would be in the best interest of the town and the taxpayers for us to pass this budget.”
The preliminary Niskayuna budget includes a 2.72% homestead tax rate, which represents a 0.17% decrease over the approved 2022 plan. The proposed budget, which comprises $14,089,736 in general fund appropriations and $5,198,695 in highway fund appropriations, includes a 6.21% non-homestead tax rate for businesses, an increase over last year’s 6.08% tax rate.
Under the proposal, the Town Board’s four members will not be receiving increases on their $10,450 per year salaries.
During the budget hearing, a procession of residents made their opinions known on the preliminary budget, with the majority in favor of the proposed supervisor salary boost.
“The supervisor’s salary was set at its current rate a good 20 years ago,” Niskayuna resident Leslie Gold noted during the hearing. “Just looking at the rate of inflation over the 20 years, I think it’s warranted. At some point, a study with a comparison of comparable communities would be appropriate.”
Resident Jon Lemelin also praised the town’s decision to utilize $2.3 million in fund balance in the proposed 2023 spending plan.
“I agree with the elimination of the short-term borrowing to balance the budget and the proposal to pay off the town’s short-term notes from 2018,” he said during the hearing. “I believe these decisions are prudent, especially in light of increased interest rates. I’ve also wondered if previous administrations were using bonds as a way to spend money without any discussion during the budget process. I’m glad to see this practice stopped.”
During the hearing, resident Linda Rizzo argued that Puccioni should not be receiving a raise in the 2023 budget.
“This should be a referendum,” Rizzo said. “Let the voters decide, not a group of committee people and not a few people sitting up here to make a decision.”