Clifton Park’s proposed 2014 budget is business as usual for the growing suburban community.
Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett’s spending proposal continues the streak of no town tax, raises the highway tax by less than $1 a year for an average taxpayer and spends less than the town will likely spend this year. He touted the budget as a sound and fiscally conservative proposal.
Barrett said the goal of the budget was for the town to retain its strong financial position, as it has an Aa2 bond rating from Moody’s Investor’s Service, while also providing needed services, like bulk waste pickup and trail maintenance. It also keeps the town’s rainy day fund well-stocked, he said, spending about $650,000 and leaving about $10 million in the fund balance, the unspent money left over from previous budget years.
The budget includes very conservative sales tax projections: With revenue from sales tax expected to reach $11.2 million this year, next year’s budget anticipates only $11 million in sales tax revenue. “Many things can go wrong in any given year, which is why we budget less for sales tax than we will receive the previous year,” Barrett said.
The largest areas of growth in the town’s budget include costs that are out of the town’s control, like state mandates or existing contracts. The town’s share of the state retirement system’s cost is expected to increase almost $100,000 from this year to next.
Despite some rising costs, overall general fund spending is slated for $16.7 million, which is about $1 million less than was budgeted for this year and about $500,000 less than the town is projected to actually spend this year.
The Highway Department is projected to spend about $5.4 million, and the town’s special districts, including ambulance, water, sewer and library, are projected to spend about $9.4 million. Total spending is about $31.46 million.
The town has been able to cut costs through reductions to the town’s workforce, mostly through attrition, and by renegotiating the town’s health insurance plan.
Small raises are in the budget for some town employees, including all the employees in the comptroller’s office, legal department, supervisor’s office and clerk’s office and the members of the Town Board. An approximately 8 percent bump is included for Comptroller Mark Heggen and Town Attorney Tom McCarthy; Barrett’s salary would go from $90,000 to $92,700.
Increased spending by the Highway Department, which prompted a 3 percent highway tax increase, was due to rising costs of items the department uses on a regular basis, like fuel. If the tax increase is approved, the average homeowner will pay $29 a year, according to Barrett.