Editor's note: This story was corrected at 10 a.m. on Oct. 9. An earlier version incorrectly stated the change in total proposed spending for the coming year. Total spending will be down by about $120,000.
MALTA — Zoning changes that have promoted commercial development are helping keep the town's property taxes down, Town Supervisor Vincent DeLucia said Friday.
DeLucia made the comments as the Town Board released a proposed 2018 town budget that totals $10 million and requires no general fund or highway property tax support for the 34th consecutive year. The Saratoga County sales tax is the town's primary source of funding.
Total proposed spending is about $120,000 less than in the current year's town budget, in large part because of large investments in highway equipment this year that will not be repeated in the coming year. Councilman Tom Dunn said there's also been an effort to control expenses.
If the budget is adopted, there would still be property taxes for fire protection, emergency services and the Malta library, so a home assessed at $250,000 would pay $243 in taxes next year, about $10 less than this year because overall property values have risen, town officials said. The town is expecting sales tax revenue next year of $5.1 million, up $500,000 from 2016, due to increases in the town's property values.
"Our strategy to increase our share of [sales tax] revenue by encouraging commercial development has yielded results faster than we could have anticipated and is already returning money to our residents' wallets," DeLucia said.
Among the changes DeLucia said have increased the tax base are rezoning Route 9 south of Malta Corners and eastern Route 67 for commercial development, and rezoning Route 67 west to encourage commercial development. The Town Board is currently considering rezoning Route 9 north to encourage more commercial activity, and a town Economic Development Committee is considering other recommendations.
"Routes 9 and 67 have always been a commercial corridor, but were not designated as such," DeLucia said. "This was really driven by the [requests of the] community."
DeLucia, a Republican elected in 2015, is running for re-election this November and facing a challenge from Democrat Bill Breheny. All town offices are currently held by Republicans.
Breheny said the zoning changes have created concerns, and he questioned whether reliance on the sales tax couldn't put the town in a precarious financial situation in the future.
"It is perceived that it's changing our quality of life," Breheny said. "Change is going to come to Malta. Route 67 is not what it was five years ago. It has 22,000 vehicles a day."
Encouraging commercial development will bring even more traffic to what is a dangerous road, he said.
"Things are nice now, but it wouldn't take much for them to spin out of control," Breheny said.
DeLucia said he's heard the most negative feedback about the large multi-family developments built in town than about commercial development.
"We recognized the need to counterbalance Malta being traditionally a bedroom community," he said.
Following Town Board workshops this month, there will be a public hearing on the tentative budget on Nov. 9. DeLucia said the budget will probably be adopted that night.