By LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — TICONDEROGA — The Ticonderoga Town Council is hoping its 2013 tentative budget can stay under the state’s 2 percent tax cap, Supervisor Debra Malaney said recently.
The spending plan itself is under that figure, she said, until the Chilson Fire Department’s contractual budget is added in.
With that included, the town budget totals $8.89 million, with a tax levy about 3 percent more than last year’s $2.47 million.
The Chilson Fire budget is up 27 percent over this year’s $43,880, to cover the cost of buying VHF low-band radio pagers and additional digital radios to meet requirements of the new Essex County Public Safety Radio System, which is expected to go online next year.
Essex County is using a grant to buy some vehicle radios for local fire, ambulance, police and highway departments, but that doesn’t include pagers. Departments must pick up those costs, but officials say used or reconditioned units are available cheaply.
TI FIRE DISTRICT
Pagers for everyone serving the Chilson Fire Department are the problem, Malaney said.
“We’re working with them, and they’re working with the county to sort out their radio needs. Chilson has 20 active members that need pagers.”
The budget is in flux, Malaney said, so the increase could be pared down.
She said everyone has worked hard to keep costs down.
The Ticonderoga Fire District budget, which is separate from the town budget, is also up about 8 percent over the present $323,590 because of radio purchases. That budget is controlled by a Board of Fire Commissioners, not the Town Council, Malaney said.
She said the Town Council will work with the fire companies to either reduce their needs or override the tax cap.
The state allows municipalities and fire districts to override the tax cap with a 60-percent vote.
“We’re in the process of working it out now, working out the kinks,” Malaney said.
The tentative town budget includes a 14 percent increase in employee health-insurance costs, and a new reserve fund for building maintenance. The fund’s amount will be determined when the budget is closer to finalization.
We have some beautiful, historic buildings,” Malaney said. “We can’t ignore them while they deteriorate. We have to keep them in good shape.”
The town owns the Ticonderoga Community Building, a neo-Georgian structure built in 1927 by town benefactor Horace Moses, and the Heritage Museum, the former International Paper office building across the street, among others.
Malaney said that downsizing, cutbacks and layoffs in previous years have left them with a lean operation.
“It’s (the new budget) looking really good. The department heads were great and stayed as close as they could (to present spending). The tax cap is forcing all of us to do some belt tightening.”
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