Press-Republican

November 3, 2013

Budget solid in Harrietstown

By KIM SMITH DEDAM Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — HARRIETSTOWN — For one of the first times in recent history, health-insurance costs in the Harrietstown town budget are going down.

Pension costs have largely stabilized, and the budget officer here believes the town will come in a few points under the state cap for the tax levy.

“It looks very good,” Business Manager Mike Kilroy said of the preliminary budget. “We will not be overriding the cap. We will be under the cap.”

1.6% HIKE ALLOWED

The tax-cap formula puts the maximum allowed levy in Harrietstown at $2,045,000, a 1.6 percent increase from this year.

“I’m estimating the tax-levy increase will be about 1.4 percent,” Kilroy said of 2014 budget figures thus far.

“Some things fell into place that we like. Health insurance for our premiums went down roughly $1,000 a year for each person who takes the health coverage. The prices came in pretty good.”

Kilroy did not know for sure if the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare,” worked to rein in insurance premiums.

“My gut feeling is that it has to have had an impact. It could very well be competition under Obamacare, but I’m guessing,” he said.

“The retirement contribution for Harrietstown, even though it’s high, has somewhat stabilized,” Kilroy said.

And those items are two primary drivers of cost increases in town budgets.

BIGGER BALANCE

Tax rates in the preliminary budget will see a few pennies of increase.

“The inside rate, inside the Village of Saranac Lake boundary, will see a 2 cents per thousand (dollars of real property value) increase, maybe,” Kilroy said.

“Outside residents, it looks like a 7 cents per thousand increase.”

One reason for the increase is to preserve fund balance.

“We aren’t rolling over as much fund balance,” Kilroy said. “It’s supposed to be used to reduce the levy, but you have to use your judgment. This year, we are only rolling over $120,000.”

NEW POSITIONS

The total Harrietstown preliminary budget is close to $4.7 million. 

“And $18,500 of that is new, adding funds for a water district,” Kilroy said.

“We are up about $52,000 in overall spending. Two new justices are included in that budget and a full-time court clerk.”

The budget also includes one new line-service employee at the Adirondack Regional Airport.

The Town Council members have not discussed employee raises and are in contract negotiations now, Kilroy said.

HALL REPAIRS, FLOOD WALL

Repairs to the Town Hall have been put off until an engineering study is complete.

“That’s going to be next year,” Kilroy said. “If we borrow money, the first payment won’t be due until 2015.”

The other big project looming is building a flood-mitigation retaining wall behind the Town Hall, which is going to cost around $330,000, he said.

FEMA will reimburse the town for flood repairs, but the final amount has not been set.

“FEMA has promised, so far, $71,000,” Kilroy said.

The town would obtain a bond anticipation note for the project at an interest rate Kilroy expects to be less than 2 percent.

Construction on the retaining wall won’t begin this fall, as town officials originally hoped. The town is looking toward late next spring to begin the work.

NOV. 7 HEARING

Overall, preliminary budget numbers in Harrietstown are encouraging.

“We’re in good shape here,” Kilroy said.

The public hearing is tentatively set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, followed by the regular Town Council meeting.

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com