Menands looks to stick to tax cap

Public hearing approaches on budget that would hike taxes 2.5 percent

— The Menands Board of Trustees voted Monday, April 1, to authorize the village to exceed the state tax cap, but officials hope it won’t come to that.

The village’s tentative 2013-14 budget is up against the tax levy limit imposed by the state tax cap law. The $6.4 million budget, a $300,000 increase over this year’s spending plan, would hike taxes by 2.52 percent for a tax rate of $6.78 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

A public hearing is scheduled for Monday, April 8, on the proposed 2013-14 budget and if any changes need to be made, the budget will “most likely” have to exceed the cap, Village Treasurer Bill Smith said.

“But with the budget right now, they don’t need it. That’s just for protection,” Smith said, referring to the recent vote to authorize exceeding the cap.

The Village of Menands has approximately 25 full-time employees and 15 part-time employees. This year, retirement costs have increased in several areas, including 14 percent in the police department. Fixed costs increased year-to-year, including hospitalization costs that were up 17 percent and workers compensation, which was up 16 percent.

Increased retirement costs is one reason the village is allowed to raise its taxes above the 2 percent tax cap.

“Over the last four or five years, it’s gone up substantially,” Smith said.

There are not water or sewer fee hikes in the tentative budget. Last year, the village hiked fees by 7 percent. The water fund is budgeted at $1.2 million, up from last year’s $1.1 million, and the sewer fund is $680,000, an increase from last year’s $560,000.

Smith said they the village likes to keep a “reasonable amount” of the budget in the fund balance, though each year the balance is getting lower. It is scheduled to stand at $650,000 in the 2013-14 budget.

“The 2 percent cap doesn’t allow you to do much and still maintain a fund balance that is reasonable. And the governor wants everything fixed. But you can’t fix it if you can’t raise taxes,” Smith said. “We do the best we can.”

The April 8 public hearing will be held at the Menands Fire House at 6:30 p.m.

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