GLENVILLE -- The Town Board approved a 2019 town budget Wednesday night -- but not my much.
With the board's two Democrats, Michael Godlewski and Michael Aragosa, voting against the spending plan because of its 2.34 percent property tax increase, the budget was approved by a 3-2 margin.
"I vote yes. It is a very strong, very fiscally balanced budget for the people of the town," said Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle, a Republican who repeatedly sparred with Godlewski and Aragosa over the tax increase, which the Democrats said could have been smaller with different fiscal policies.
Godlewski said the tax increase could have been reduced to below 2 percent if the board were willing to dip further into the town's fund balance, which stands at just over $1.9 million. Koetzle has made it a policy to reduce the town's dependence on the fund balance, and next year, he plans to take only $20,000 from it.
Godlewski called Koetzle's fund balance policy "a self-imposed mandate."
"The tax rate increase, to me, is a little high," Godlewski said. "It just comes down to a question of philosophy."
Spending will total $18.34 million, up from $17.35 million this year. The total amount to be raised through property taxes would go from $8.7 million to just under $9 million.
The increase, following a 1.68 percent tax increase in 2018, still keeps the town under the state-imposed tax cap, which for next year would allow taxes to rise by as much as 3 percent.
For a home assessed at the town average of $174,000, the annual tax bill for general and highway services would rise from $737.76 to $755.16. Many residents, however, also pay special district taxes for water, sewer, fire protection and other services.
Koetzle accused the Democrats of playing politics, given that two Republican-held Town Board seats are up for election in November 2019. Godlewski and Aragosa were both elected in 2017 and are the first Democrats to occupy Glenville Town Board seats in a decade.
"No one wants to raise taxes, but there's a difference between governing and campaigning, and that's responsibility," Koetzle said.
If anything, Koetzle said the fund balance -- sometimes referred to as a "rainy day fund," for its availability during municipal emergencies or an economic downturn -- should be larger. He said he would prefer to see it closer to $2.5 million or $2.7 million, or 15 percent of the annual budget.
"Two million dollars on an $18 million budget isn't that much," he said.
The Democrats disagreed, saying a rising fund balance would mean the town is collecting more money than it needs.
"The way I see it, we're saving money that may not belong to us," Aragosa said.
The new spending plan would add staff and equipment to the police, highway and parks departments to meet growing demands for town services, Koetzle said. It also allocates $500,000 from a reserve account to pay off outstanding debt.
Plans include completion of Maalwyck Park on Route 5, with $560,000 budgeted for a pavilion; restrooms; concession stands; a playground; an educational and cultural display; and complete electric, water and sewer services. Funding for that work is being borrowed, so the impact on next year's taxes will be minimal.
Additions to the town labor force include a full-time highway laborer, a new police officer as of July and a year-round, part-time parks laborer position. There are also plans to contract with an outside firm for a grant writer/grant administrator position, to help the town administer state grants it has received.
The budget includes an additional $72,000 toward restoration of the historic Yates Mansion, which the town purchased in 2017 and plans to renovate into a history center and small events space.