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Editorial: Sunny? Pack an umbrella

— The forecast certainly looks a lot different for the Town of Colonie these days.

Supervisor Paula Mahan is expected to present a 2013 tentative budget on Thursday, Sept. 27, that comes in under the state tax cap, raising the tax rate a relatively modest 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. That announcement comes on the heels of several tumultuous budget cycles, and also shortly after an audit found the town is finally carrying a surplus. It seems almost unimaginable that in 2008, the town had a deficit of more than $20 million.

Town officials were mum on many details of the budget, so rest assured we will have all of the details once it is released on Thursday, including exactly what it might mean for town services.

Of course, let us recall that less than a decade ago, in 2004, the town’s tax rate stood at $2.01, a far cry from the $3.13 proposed in Mahan’s tentative budget. Residents have been asked to pay much more in a relatively short period of time. That figure makes last year’s modest tax decrease seem less of a victory, especially when coupled with 2009’s $5.7 million “one time tax,” one of a slew of drastic measures taken to put the town on track.

Then there was the operating agreement on the town landfill. Waste Connections is now paying the town for the privilege of managing the landfill, and while what that will mean for the people of Colonie over the 25-year span of the contract is unclear, it is largely the company’s $23 million up-front payment that allowed leaders to at last claim the town’s deficit wiped out.

Mahan’s tentative budget is said to increase spending by $760,000 over this year, which we would tentatively say is not unreasonable given the extra burdens being placed on local municipalities. But planners in Colonie, who will for the life of the Waste Connections contract be budgeting in a payment of several million dollars from the company annually, should remember the sun will set on this state of affairs and not balance the budget on it.

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Comments

Jon1 1 year, 10 months ago

The article seems to have overlooked the August 2012 NYS Comptroller's "Town of Colonie Financial Condition Report of Examination", which says Supervisor Mahan was handed a $36.9 million Deficit by the previous Administration (never disclosed until now). As a result, Supervisor Mahan is to be complimented on achieving a $700,000 Surplus by the end of 2011, while also explaining how the annual surpluses from 2007 through 2011 were consumed. The NYS Comptroller also states that the Town Budgets (beginning with 2013) need to include the previous years (2011) actual results, which for 2011 reflect Revenues being about $14 million higher than Expenses. Therefore it seems appropriate to not only adhere to the 2% cap for expenses, but Colonie should follow Bethlehems proposal to cap Surplus reserves at 15-20%, which set the stage for lowering the tax rate in about 2014. Publishing actual results, combined with caping expenditures and Surplus reserves would help avoid repeating Colonie's blemished financial history. The question is: Do Colonie taxpayers care enough to insist on the current Administration complying with the above and doing what's best for all taxpayers?

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