NISKAYUNA — The Niskayuna Town Board unanimously passed a $19.2 million 2023 budget during its meeting on Thursday evening that keeps the homestead tax rate flat.
The budget did not include a proposed $4,700 salary increase for the supervisor’s seat, after the preliminary budget released in October included a measure to hike the salary from the current rate of $53,800 to $58,500 in 2023.
Town Supervisor Jaime Puccioni explained that she had removed the proposed $4,700 increase for the supervisor’s position from the budget so that any potential hike in the supervisor’s salary would be made separate from any individual supervisor in the role.
“This is an important policy that should reach beyond this immediate budget and invest in a long-term solution,” Puccioni said during the meeting. “It is critically important that we ensure that the job of supervisor isn’t restricted to a narrow band of applicants who are rich enough or who have pension plans that make it so they can do this work. Let’s make sure that talented individuals who are in the middle of their careers, or who have a family to support, can afford to serve this beautiful town.”
The supervisor said she was recommending that the town form a committee that would study the possibility of raising the supervisor’s salary for the first time since 2002, with Puccioni adding that any potential raise be implemented in January 2024, after next fall’s supervisor election.
The budget, which includes $19,299,041 in appropriations between the general and highway funds, includes a 2.72 homestead tax rate and a 6.21 non-homestead rate, a slight increase over the 6.08 rate approved in 2022.
The board supported the budget with a 5-0 vote, with Puccioni and Town Board Members Jason Moskowitz, Jessica Brennan, Bill McPartlon, John Della Ratta all voting to confirm the spending plan.
“I was incredibly pleased to pass a budget with a zero percent tax increase that did not use bonding and that was passed unanimously,” Puccioni said after the meeting.
The approved budget utilizes $2 million in fund balance for the highway fund and $250,000 for the general fund to balance the budget.
“I’m incredibly proud that we were able to work with the Comptroller’s [Beth Greenwood’s] office and our fiscal advisors to come to a consensus to use previously collected tax dollars to pay off short-term debt and to purchase needed equipment,” Puccioni said during the meeting.
“We will continue to monitor economic indicators carefully, but our decision not to bond this year will save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next decade.”
The $4,370,232 police department budget represents a $264,443 increase over the department’s 2022 budget.
The police budget funds up to 30 police officers, three new police vehicles and adds a data analyst to the department’s staff.
During the public comment portion of the Nov. 17 meeting, Niskayuna resident Chuck Petrowski said he agreed with the supervisor’s decision to take the proposed salary hike for the supervisor’s office out of the budget.
“With the amount of pay for the supervisor I think the right thing was done,” he told the board. “I think it should be discussed in a committee and it should be benchmarked with other roles in the community and the state.”
Petrowski added that the town needed to keep public sector salaries competitive in order to attract qualified candidates.
“We need to give the reward and the motivation for the best and the brightest to come to our town,” he said.