NISKAYUNA: Taxes to rise 9.9 percent

Local property owners are facing a nearly double-digit tax increase in Niskayuna after the town board narrowly adopted a more than $12 million budget for next year. The 9.9 percent tax increase does not include changes that will occur as a result of the property reassessment going on in the suburban community. Those results are expected to hit homeowners in tax bills they'll receive next fall.

During weeks of discussions, the five-member town board split into two camps with Liz Orzel Kasper and Bill Chapman throwing out a series of proposals that would have imposed a tighter rein on spending. The board majority, led by town Supervisor Luke Smith, rejected those ideas and pushed through the final plan on a narrow 3-to-2 vote.

Smith put forward a tentative budget plan last month that would have hit taxpayers with an 11.4 percent increase in town property taxes. He was able to reduce that level after cutting several positions, including a vacant spot on the police department. Both Kasper and Chapman contended that didn't go far enough and urged their colleagues to look into a hiring freeze on non-essential personnel, delaying equipment purchases, and considering a pay freeze for all non-union staff.

When you are looking at a tax increase of 9-something percent, you really need to consider doing some unfriendly things, Kasper explained. "The town board was brought in at the 11th hour, and we were asked to approve a budget pretty late in the process.

"In the future, we should look at having bi-monthly budget sessions so we can possibly make changes in current spending that can have a positive impact on the following year's budget," she added. "I may not be a CPA, but I was a single mom for years and I certainly know what cash flow is."

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