MOREAU — Sales tax revenue is buying Moreau more programs without an increase in taxes.
In the first draft of the 2019 budget, the tax rate is proposed to go up just one cent per $1,000 of assessed property. For a typical house assessed at $200,000, the tax bill would rise $2 to $189.
The proposed tax rate is $0.945 per $1,000.
There is no increase in sewer or water fees, and the budget continues last year’s decision to eliminate the fire protection tax. That service is now provided entirely with sales tax revenue.
However, the budget would lead to an increase in residents’ county taxes. Moreau has for years sent money to the county to defray county taxes for its residents. But the Town Board has been slowly reducing that amount.
Next year, the amount would be reduced from $500,000 to $400,000.
The $9.1 million budget uses savings to keep taxes flat, after the state Comptroller’s Office criticized the town for socking away too much money.
In the general fund, the only fund for which there is a tax, the budget calls for using $144,726 from savings.
Using fund balance in the general fund, rather than using it for one-time expenses, is often frowned upon because it creates a structural deficit. It commits the town to continually putting that much into the budget or, at some time in the future, making cuts or raising taxes.
But Kusnierz noted the town has been told to start spending its savings.
“Much was written about the comptroller’s report. So we are utilizing fund balance to meet one of the recommendations,” he said.
He added that he expects sales tax revenue to replenish the savings quickly.
The budget anticipates receiving $2.6 million in sales tax revenue, which Kusnierz called a “conservative” estimate.
“It’s our anticipation the economy will continue to stay strong,” he said.
And, as the town develops the Route 9 corridor that will get sewer, property assessments will rise. That means the town will get a larger share of Saratoga County’s total sales tax revenue.
“Sewer is going to be a game-changer,” Kusnierz said.
The budget includes increases for fire and EMS, though far less than both groups requested.
Fire protection would increase by $10,300 to $525,402.
“To be able to grow that with no fire tax is, I think, quite an accomplishment,” Kusnierz said.
EMS increased by $14,620.
Both groups wanted much more.
“Listen, we’d love to give it to them. But they don’t have to worry about staying under the tax cap. We do,” Kusnierz said. “I am committed to never breaking the tax cap. We will not go down that road.”
The budget also includes $60,000 for economic development, down from $80,000 this year. The money was used on engineering services for the Route 9 sewer project this year. Next year, it would be used to fund job-creating projects suggested in a free report being created for the town now.
If the budget is approved by the Town Board, the most noticeable change from a resident’s perspective might be Town Hall. The proposed budget has $5,000 for hardwood trees outside Town Hall, and expanded irrigation to support the grass that regularly turns brown within feet of the building.
“The budget was so tight when we built this building that we didn’t have much for landscaping,” Kusnierz said.
He’s a tree farmer, so the issue is close to his heart.
The budget also calls for one new full-time employee and two part-time employees, at a total cost of $53,500, plus benefits for the full-timer.
The full-time employee would be shared by the Supervisor’s Office and the Recreation Department. He or she would help manage requests to use the playing fields, write grants and work on payroll, at a salary of $32,000.
There would also be a part-time code enforcement officer, at $20,000, and a part-time police officer, at $1,500.
The officer would issue parking citations by the high school.
“This is strictly to handle the widespread parking issue we have over by the high school,” Kusnierz said. “For years we’ve had complaints weekly, especially around the high school football schedule.”
He wants an officer to work four hours a month, enforcing the areas that are posted as no parking.
“There’s no sense having an ordinance if you’re not going to enforce it,” he said. “There are times cars are lining both sides of the road — you wouldn’t be able to get emergency vehicles through there.”
The budget assumes all employees would get a 2 percent raise, including all elected officials.
Kusnierz said a regular raise is better than arguing over a big increase after years without any change, as the South Glens Falls Village Board did recently.
For Town Board members, the salary would go from $11,526 to $11,757. For Kusnierz, it would increase from $45,978 to $46,898.