NORTH ELBA — The Town of North Elba tax-levy increase came in below the maximum allowed by New York state.
Town Budget Officer Catherine Gregory said the increase is 2.02 percent, for a total levy — the amount to be raised by taxes — of $4,063,020.
Overall spending for 2014 increased just $17,830, or three-tenths of 1 percent, with 2014’s total budget set at $7,081,275.
Residents in North Elba outside the villages of Saranac Lake and Lake Placid may see tax-rate increases of 5 or 6 percent.
Assessments in North Elba dropped overall.
A 29 percent State Pension Fund payment increase, coupled with a 13 percent health-insurance rate hike, are part of the budget equation.
“What we are actually paying to the retirement system has increased,” Gregory said.
“The bill due in February 2014 is a 29 percent increase. We don’t amortize, and we have always paid in December to save the little bit we can.”
In nearby towns of Harrietstown and St. Armand, health-insurance costs actually went down in 2014 spending.
“Unfortunately, ours did not,” Gregory said. “The Town of North Elba is in a different classification of health-insurance group than the Town of Harrietstown, and ours went up 13 percent.”
Classification is due to the size of the group, in part, and whether the policy is experiential — based on use.
To counteract rising costs, small items were trimmed from the initial budget requests across town departments, along with a request for a new truck to use in clearing snow.
The North Elba Town Council opted not to buy a new tandem truck for the Highway Department, trimming about $200,000 from the 2014 spending plan.
“Instead, we are looking to bond for that purchase in 2014, and payments would begin in 2015,” Gregory said.
Union and non-union employees in North Elba will get a 2.5 percent pay increase for 2014.
Town Council members did not take a pay increase, opting out, as they have for six years now.
Tax rates in North Elba are fractured among different village, park, sewer and water and fire districts.
Village residents in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid pay only into the general fund tax in North Elba, which is set at 51 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for 2014.
Park district tax rates in the coming year are 85 cents per thousand.
The tax rate for the highway budget outside the village borders is 33 cents per thousand.
“We also have fire-protection districts, and which tax rate a resident has depends where their property is located,” Gregory said.
“Overall, tax rates are going up because our assessments did not increase; they actually declined.”
The Town Council is faced with replacing longtime Board of Assessor Chairman Kimball Daby, who died Oct. 31 after holding the position for 35 years.
Daby had recently warned the board that commercial properties would need to be reassessed in 2014, Gregory said.
“He told the supervisor that we are due to have our commercial properties revalued so that we can keep our equalization rate at 100 percent. That is something that we are looking to get done through an independent contractor next year.”
The budget applies $338,000 from fund balance toward the tax levy.
Budget charts provided for North Elba’s public hearing show unreserved balances in all budget areas totaled $2.74 million at the end of 2011.
Collectively, unreserved fund balances at the end of 2014 will be at $1.67 million.
The Town Council approved the 2014 budget this week after a budget hearing with few residents in attendance.
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