NISKAYUNA: Town facing large tax hike

A nearly $12.5 million budget proposal is running into flak from both sides of the political aisle in Niskayuna as homeowners react to the prospect of an 11.4 percent town property tax increase for next year.

A double-digit tax hike could mean a double whammy for property owners who are already looking at increased assessments as part of the revaluation project under way in the upscale suburban community.

The tentative budget released by Supervisor Luke Smith last week includes funding for a $200,000 drainage project, substantial improvements to the town bike path and roughly $60,000 in work on Town Hall and Niskayuna's community center. Under the proposal, a $408,675 increase in property taxes will be needed to balance the books in 2008.

The most detailed criticism of the proposal this week came from J. Briggs McAndrews, the former superintendent of the Niskayuna school district and the Republican candidate for town supervisor in next month's general election.

There are several problems with how the town has been budgeting, and they have caught up with us so now, all of a sudden, you have some kind of perfect storm hitting the town. That's why we are facing a double-digit property tax increase this year, he said.

"For example, the town has scheduled too many of its bond payments to hit at the same time, we have about three major bond payments all coming due in 2008 and it is very expensive," McAndrews said. "If we had spaced those out, the taxpayer wouldn't be getting hit with such a sudden increase."

Town board member Liz Kasper also expressed concern about the financial impact of the town bonding on the 2008 tax rate.

"I don't have the budget in front of me, but I am very concerned about the proposed tax increase and we need to take a look at some of the larger expenses in the budget like the bonding," said Kasper, a Democrat seeking reelection this year.

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