Press-Republican

April 7, 2013

Tupper Lake budget under tax cap

By KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

---- — TUPPER LAKE — The Village of Tupper Lake budget is projected to come in 1.4 percent below the state tax-cap allowance.

Village Clerk Mary Casagrain said the budget is still a work in progress, but the numbers show a decrease in the levy — which is the amount to be raised by taxes — to a proposed $1,788,535.

The total budget of $2,490,162 is down 2 percent from current-year spending.

Property revaluation last year also prompted a drop in the overall projected tax rate, down from the current $13.19 per $1,000 of property value to $13.07 per $1,000.

The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the budget at a public hearing Monday.

STEADY BUDGETING

The budget benefits from removal of several one-time items paid out last year, Casagrain said.

“Last year, we had 53 pay weeks; this year is only 52. We had some one-time items, like new lighting in our public park for $60,000, so that cost won’t be in there. We had a few additional people who bought out their insurance policies because they had duplicate coverage with their spouse.

“We had appropriated a Fire Department feasibility study in last year’s budget, and that doesn’t carry over to this year.

“And, the Village Board asked each department head to come back with a bare-bones budget without increases.”

Village departments held spending steady.

CHIPS FUNDING

New revenue from the Department of Transportation’s Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program has yet to be factored in. CHIPS increases were approved by state lawmakers a few weeks ago.

“CHIPS funds adds $13,500 to Tupper Lake’s village budget,” Casagrain said. “It is a 21 percent increase — that’s a street — we could put a nice top coat on a small street. We’re pretty happy about that.”

PENSION EXPENSES

State pension costs, however, are going up 14 percent.

The Village Board has not discussed whether to take part in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s fixed-rate pension-smoothing program.

The program, called the Stable Rates Pension Contribution Option, was put in place to help municipalities cope with the tax cap as pension costs continue to explode.

Rates offered municipalities are 12 percent for the New York State Employees Retirement System and 18.5 percent for the Police and Fire Retirement System. 

The “smoothing” option was established as a measure of mandate relief, to hold pension increases steady for 25 years. 

Stable rates hedge against pension investment earnings, which currently bank on a 7.5 percent return.

Casagrain said she put the entire 14 percent pension increase in the 2013-14 projected village budget. But if the board opts to lock in a stable pension increase, there would be additional revenue in the spending plan.

Otherwise, the numbers likely won’t change dramatically. 

SMALL TWEAKS

Village budgets have to be filed with the state by May 1.

“We have to add the CHIPS revenue item, and I will provide the board with the revised tax-cap figure,” Casagrain said of ongoing calculations.

“I think the board is going to tweak a few things. I don’t anticipate any drastic changes.

“Assuming we have the same winter as this year, we cushioned fuel figures to anticipate fuel costs going up. Insurance is staying the same for general liability.

“We have allocated a 1.5 percent pay increase for village employees.

“I think, because we went through a revaluation last year, budget planning was easier for us due to the increase in assessment.”

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com

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BUDGET HEARING

The Village of Tupper Lake will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Village Office, 53 Park St.