If former Glenville town supervisor Frank Quinn had his way, the town would use more of its fund balance to offer residents a tax cut next year in place of the 1.59 percent tax increase currently being proposed under the preliminary budget.
The town’s former leader was the only resident to voice his thoughts on the 2014 budget at a public hearing held Wednesday night. The $16.3 million spending plan is set to raise the tax levy by $134,000, resulting in an extra $11.48 in town property taxes next year for the typical Glenville homeowner. The town board must adopt a final budget by Nov. 20.
A 5 percent tax decrease to residents would be easily doable for 2014, explained Quinn. At the very least, he said, the state of the town’s finances would allow for keeping the tax rate unchanged.
“Budgets have been overestimated over the last four years, resulting in a surplus and a decreasing reliance on the fund balance,” he said. “But each year, we keep generating surpluses and increasing taxes. We’re obviously overtaxing our taxpayers because we’re building up this big fund balance and committing less and less of it.”
Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle has expressed numerous times over the last four years his goal to dial back the town’s dependency on the fund balance. For that and other reasons, town officials are unlikely to touch the preliminary budget to make any of Quinn’s recommended changes. They took issue not only with his belief of what a fund balance should be used for but also with his assessment that the town’s projected 2014 fund balance — $2.6 million — is excessive.
A fund balance, or the excess of assets over liabilities, is an unreserved and undesignated fund that is useful as insurance against unexpected expenditures or revenue shortfalls — a rainy day fund, in short.
When Quinn was in office, he said the state comptroller’s office recommended municipalities maintain a fund balance that is 6 percent of the total budget. Once it reaches any higher than this, town officials should consider using it to relieve the burden on taxpayers, he said.
Koetzle said Glenville has been following the more current recommendation of the Government Finance Officers Association, which says municipalities should maintain a rolling fund balance that is 20 percent of the total budget.
The town’s projected fund balance for 2014 would be 22 percent.
“I am convinced that we need to reduce our dependency on the fund balance and not go the other way with it,” said Koetzle. “I think Moody’s affirmed that decision to wean ourselves off the fund balance when it upgraded our bond rating.”
Quinn also suggested that the town’s “massive” fund balance could put officials in a poor negotiating position with unions next year — an assertion that Town Board member Gina Wierzbowski vehemently disagreed with at the end of Wednesday’s meeting.
“While we are raising taxes, I think we are trying to keep it reasonable and affordable,” she said. “We have to cover costs that we cannot get rid of. We have things we have to pay for. So it’s great to stand up and say, ‘You have a surplus and you shouldn’t.’ But when our bond rating increases because of that, it pretty much validates everything that we’ve been saying.”