Hearings slated on proposed budgets

TICONDEROGA Ticonderoga officials are working up to the last minute to complete the proposed 2008 town budget. Taxes are expected to increase about 4 percent next year, according to Supervisor Bob Dedrick, although the tentative budget had not yet been finalized Oct. 31. The most difficult thing is to balance the needs of (town) department heads with the plight of taxpayers, Dedrick said. Weve had some good arguments. Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree. We think weve come up with an excellent budget, he added. I hope people will support it. The proposed 2008 budget will be presented to the public at a hearing Thursday, Nov. 8, at 5 p.m. at the Community Building. The town board is expected to adopt the spending plan at its regular meeting at 7 that night. Dedrick credited Karla Vigliotti, budget officer, and Amy Quesnel, budget clerk, with their efforts on the 2008 budget. I know the town board has spent at least 12 hours on this and Karla and Amy have done a lot more, Dedrick said. This has been a difficult process. The chief problem for Ticonderoga planners is sky-rocketing oil prices. With oil at $90 a barrel and seeming to go up every day its very difficult to plan a year in advance, Dedrick said. Anything that is oil-based is going up (in price) astronomically. Were paying twice as much for a piece of pipe as we paid a year ago. The preliminary 2008 budget also includes a 15 percent hike in employee health insurance costs. I hope that will be enough, Dedrick said. Weve been told to expect up to a 20 percent increase. Theres also a 12.5 percent increase in youth spending in the tentative spending plan. Dedrick attributed the hike to increased participation in the towns summer recreation program, which served 300 children in 2007. The 2008 budget also contains 4 percent pay increases for union employees highway, water, sewer, police and emergency dispatch and 3 percent pay hikes for non-union employees and elected officials. The proposed budget also raises sewer rates $40 a year and water rates $20 annually. The sewer increase is the result of decreased revenue at the town wastewater treatment plant. Schroon and Moriah used to bring sludge to Ti, but now have their own plants. The water increase is attributed to repairs at the Abercombie water tank. A major cut in the proposed 2008 budget is $77,000 for emergency dispatchers. The Essex County 911 system is expected to come online at the end of the year eliminating the need for local dispatch service. To ensure a smooth transition, Ti officials budgeted enough money to keep local dispatch services operating for three months after the county 911 goes into operation. I think its a good budget when you come with a tax levy near the cost of living increase and have almost every department head upset, Dedrick said.
PORT HENRY The proposed 2008 Moriah town budget calls for a 4 percent increase in spending. The tentative spending plan totals $3,727,066, 4 percent more than the current budget of $3,589,562. The amount to be raised by local taxes in the proposed 2008 budget is $1,846,629, 5 percent more than the $1,765,131 raised in 2007. Theres no frills in it, Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said of the proposed budget. My hats off to the town board. The board met with all department heads and had two public workshops to come up with this budget. It was a team effort. A public hearing on the proposed 2008 budget will be held Thursday, Nov. 8, at 6 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus in Port Henry. Scozzafava expects the town board to adopt the spending plan at its regular meeting Nov. 13. Taxes in 2008 will vary depending on where a peron lives. Tax rates vary between water districts, fire districts and town and village. Overall, the average taxpayer will see about a 4 percent tax increase, Scozzafava said. Most of the proposed $81,316 increase in local taxes can be traced to a 14 percent increase in employee health benefits and a 3 percent pay increase for town workers. Elected officials will not get a pay raise in 2008. The increases you see are things we dont have any control over, Scozzafava said. The proposed budget also includes extra money fro increased fuel costs, higher street light bills and the purchase of a snowblower to be used by the buildings and grounds department. A new line in the budget allocates $5,000 for the town bicentennial celebration in 2008. Helping keeping taxes in line are increased revenues from the town-owned Bulwagga Bay campsite. That campsite provides a good revenue that helps keep down the tax levy, Scozzafava said. Those people (campers) also spend money in town that helps local businesses. That campsite is a tremendous asset to the community. The supervisor noted sewer rates will increase next year from $416 annually to $420. Thats good news, he said, because annual costs were expected to be $600 when the system was upgraded four years ago. Its still high, Scozzafava said of sewer rates, but its a lot less than anticipated.
Crown Point
CROWN POINT Tax rates for Crown Point residents are expected to decrease in 2008. The preliminary town budget for next year calls for tax rates to drop from the current level of $10.25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to $9.80. A public hearing on the proposed spending plan is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, at the town hall. Trustees are expected to adopt the budget at their meeting that follows the hearing at 6 p.m. Its really a bare-bones budget, Supervisor Dale French said. We have a good board; they dont like to spend money. The proposed 2008 Crown Point budget totals $1,557,285. Thats $63,797 4.2 percent more than the current spending plan. The proposed amount to be raised by taxes is $979,195. Thats $42,372 4.5 percent more than the current spending plan. While spending and taxes are up, French explained, tax rates are down because of increased property assessments in the town. Most of the proposed budget increase can be traced to employee health insurance. Those costs are up 14 percent and account for $24,000 of the $42,372 increase in local taxes, French noted. The Crown Point fire district budget, which is submitted by the local board of fire commissioners for inclusion in the town budget, is up $7,190, an increase of 4.5 percent. Proposed spending in the highway department is up 4 percent. French attributed that increase to higher fuel, equipment and health insurance costs. The proposed budget also includes a 3 percent pay raise for all town employees and elected officials. Crown Points board has cut a deputy town clerk position from the 2008 spending plan and French hopes to further reduce the amount to be raised by taxes when year-end revenues are known. He expects the town will have about $8,000 it can ut toward the new budget.
Schroon Lake
SCHROON LAKE Taxes will remain steady in the town of Schroon next year. The proposed 2008 budget calls for a tax increase of $13,699, a less than 1 percent increase from the current spending plan. The proposed 2008 budget would have contained a tax decrease, but at the last minute the town board decided to include $25,000 for a veterans monument. The preliminary 2008 budget totals $3,841,791 and calls for $2,114,901 to be raised by local taxes. The projected tax rate is a 20-percent decrease from $4.12 per $1,000 of assessment to $3.29. The tax rate decline is attributed to an increase in local property assessments. A public hearing on the proposed budget is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, in the Schroon town hall. The town board is expected to adopt the 2008 budget at its regular meeting, which follows at 7 p.m. Weve tried to keep things down, Schroon Supervisor Cathy Moses said. Weve rebuilt our infrastructure over the years. Now, its strictly maintenance in the budget. In recent years the town has completed sewer and water projects, airport and beach upgrades, a new highway garage, town park improvements and bandstand construction and a new boat launch. The decision to help local veterans erect a monument in the town park was easy for the town board, Moses said. Our veterans have really been struggling the past two or three years to built a veterans monument in the park, she said. Theyve done mailings and held fundraisers. The community and given and given. Theyve raised $27,647 and they have a goal of $53,550. The board agreed to help with the last $25,000. The Schroon highway department will also help with some services, Moses said, so the entire $25,000 may not be needed. Moses noted the proposed tax levy would have also decreased if not for a lawsuit brought by the Schroon Lake Taxpayers Association. The preliminary budget includes $50,000 for legal defense against the suit. Board of Assessors Chairman Richard Schoenstadt said the litigation alleges inequitable assessments and favoritism in assessing. The suit says lakefront-property owners were targeted for higher assessments. Part of the suit was dismissed in state Supreme Court but is being appealed by the plaintiffs, Schoenstadt said. The proposed spending plan also includes a 14 percent increase in health insurance costs for town employees, Moses said, which is the standard increase for next year in the region. Town employees and elected officials will all receive 3 percent raises in the new budget, but overall salaries are down. The town will save money on salaries, Moses said, because several employees are retiring. New workers can be hired for less money, she said. Also up in 2008 is the Schroon fire district budget. The districts total budget, which is set by a Board of Fire Commissioners and forwarded to the town board for inclusion in the town budget, went from $340,000 to $384,000. One major decrease in the proposed 2008 budget is a 4.5 percent reduction in highway spending. Moses credited retiring Highway Superintendent Mike Marnell. Mikes done a great job for the people of Schroon, Moses said. The new superintendent will inherit a great department. Mike is a real first class guy and well miss him.

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