Press-Republican

November 4, 2013

Jay budget within tax cap

By LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — JAY — The tax levy for the proposed 2014 budget for the Town of Jay stays well within the state cap.

The Jay tax levy is at $1.7 million, a 1.8 percent increase from $1.68 million this year.

The state cap formula for Jay is 2.5 percent, Jay Budget Officer Susan Richards said in an email.

“In order to stay under the tax cap, our overall increase for the 2014 budget cannot exceed $42,975,” she said.

“The preliminary budget being proposed for adoption yields an increase of only $31,783. We analyzed trends in spending and evaluated the effectiveness of operations to ensure our budget remained in balance.”

‘TOUGH DECISIONS’

Jay Town Supervisor Randy Douglas praised Richards, Public Works Director Chris Garrow, the Jay Town Council and town workers for suggesting ways to save money.

“When unfunded mandates, such as State Retirement, eat up the majority of our allowable tax cap, we are forced to make tough, educated decisions that will save taxpayer dollars,” Douglas said by email.

“Recently, we eliminated one (town) justice position; this is a prime example of being fiscally responsible to our people.”

The budget includes a 2 percent raise for all employees and elected officials. This is only the second raise given within a four-year period.

LOWER WATER RATES

Douglas said that in 2005 the town revamped the Upper Jay Water System. At that time, water rates for an Upper Jay water user were at an all-time high of $9.97 per $1,000 of assessed value.

“I am most proud of the hard work, we, the town board, did on behalf of the residents of Upper Jay, leveraging state and federal funding to offset the cost to the Upper Jay water users,” Douglas said.

“We provided safe, affordable drinking water and reduced their inherited rate of $9.97 per $1,000 to $2.38. The reduced water rate is well below the state comptroller’s required threshold.”

‘TIGHT BUDGET’

The tax rate for the proposed budget’s general fund would go down to $2.35 per $1,000 of assessed value, from $2.37 this year.

The highway fund would go from a rate of $3.32 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2013 down to $3.25 in 2014.

“Although we operate on a very tight budget, we pinch every penny possible,” Garrow said in the email.

Not including any special districts, such as water, sewer or fire protection, the combined general and highway tax rate would be $5.63 per $1,000 of assessment, down from $5.69 this year.

The levy for the AuSable Forks Ambulance Squad would go from about $122,000 to $127,000, a $4,800 increase. That levy is included in the general fund budget.

The tax levies for the town’s water districts are all up less than $1,000 each, so those tax rates will increase only slightly. The levy for the AuSable Forks Sewer District is expected to stay about the same as this year.

The AuSable Forks Fire District levy is up from $70,625 to $71,141, Jay Fire District went up from $109,150 to $111,650, and Upper Jay Fire District increased from $75,383 to $81,411.

The district tax levies are set by boards of elected fire commissioners, not the town.

GOOD RATING

This summer, State Comptroller Thomas Dinapoli released a report of fiscally stressed towns, Douglas said.

Municipalities were rated in percentages of financial stress, with significant stress anything higher than 65 percent, moderate at more than 55 percent, and no stress if the score was lower than 45 percent.

“The Town of Jay had a 3.3 percent rating of fiscal stress,” Douglas said. “With a 3.3 percent designation, we certainly are doing financially well, which is a credit to the town board and Budget Officer Susan Richards.”

He said Town of Jay budgets were compiled with only modest tax-levy increases long before the state tax cap went into effect.

“Over the past 10 years, our adopted town budgets have seen an average increase of 1 3/4 percent,” Douglas said.

“I am proud of the Town of Jay’s financial status, especially with all the town has been through, with nine states of emergency declared in the last nine years, including Tropical Storm Irene.”

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com

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BUDGET HEARING

The public hearing on the proposed 2014 Town of Jay budget is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, at the Town of Jay Community Center board meeting room.

A regular Town Council meeting will follow at 7 p.m. in anticipation of passing the proposed budget.