Board eyes budget, affordable housing

NORTH CREEK At its meeting Tuesday, the Johnsburg Town Board took aim at the town budget and the issue of affordable housing as two top priorities for 2008. Town Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed noted that in 2005, the town property tax levy was about $588,000. In 2008, it will be about $970,000. By my analysis, if we dont do something, were looking at doubling the taxpayer burden every eight years, Goodspeed said. That shows a pattern that we have to turn around. To that end, the Town Board agreed to form a citizens advisory board to look at the budget and make recommendations on ways to use resources more efficiently. By looking at the budget with new eyes, I think it can make a difference, Goodspeed said. Goodspeed said hed like the committee to look at a few specific areas: * An analysis of all the town buildings and the costs associated with them including utilities and maintenance costs. * Exploring the relationship between the water budget and the general fund. * Insurance costs. * Professional services such as legal fees and engineering fees. The board has been aggressive in trying to pass professional fees that result from development on to the developers in cases where the fees are a direct result of the development being proposed, Goodspeed said. The town could further reduce its legal costs by not requiring the town attorney to be at every meeting, Goodspeed said. I want to look at the idea of the hot and cold meeting concept, he added. By that, Goodspeed said, he means scheduling the discussion of legal issues at specific meetings rather than at every meeting, thereby reducing the number of meetings at which the town attorney is requiredto attend. The budget advisory committee will hold its first meeting at 4 p.m. on Feb. 1 at Tannery Pond Community Center. Anyone interested in participating with the committee should call Goodspeed at the Town Hall, 251-2421. In the area of affordable housing, Goodspeed said he envisions the town zoning law as the mechanical device that can bring about affordable housing initiatives. Specifically, Goodspeed said, hed like to look at what developers are doing to assure that the employees that will be needed to staff these new resorts have affordable places in which to live. Changes to the town zoning code could require developers to include affordable housing components in their plans. It could be by requiring them to build a certain percentage of affordable units in their developments. I dont know what that percentage is, Goodspeed said. But we could analyze what other municipalities are doing and get an idea. Another approach would be to have developers contribute a certain percentage of their project budget to an affordable housing fund. Goodspeed said he could envision asking an existing entity such as the Adirondack Land Trust administer such a fund. We wouldnt have to reinvent the wheel, Goodspeed said. Goodspeed said hed like town government to act aggressively on behalf of the towns residents to turn around the budget trend and make certain that as development progresses, Johnsburg remains an affordable place for families to live, both now and for future generations.

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