LAKE PLACID - The North Elba Town Board and Supervisor Robi Politi aren't afraid to take some chances and do things a little differently - a fact that's reflected in the 2010 town budget adopted unanimously on Tuesday night.
For the first time in the region's history, village property owners will get some relief from being double-taxed because of the multiple layers of jurisdiction and governments.
The 2010 budget eliminates the town highway tax for village residents and property owners.
And for Politi, certain citizens being taxed twice for the same service just isn't fair.
"We are taking some risks, in some ways, and doing some things that haven't been done, but in our opinion we are doing the right things," Politi said. "One of the reasons that things don't get done like eliminating highway tax is because of money; it's always a money issue. The county should have been revenue-sharing sales tax, especially because of all the money that we generate. In my opinion it is a crime that the money is being utilized by the county and we never get the benefit."
The total budget decreases expenditures by roughly $2.1 million relative to 2009 and totals $7.8 million in appropriations.
However, this apparent savings is inflated because $1.1 million of that money that was removed from the budget stems from federal funds for the Lake Placid Airport.
Yet, the town board has cut just over $1 million from the budget and considering the outlook on the coming revenue streams, it's the only thing that could save the taxpayers from shouldering the burden.
The total tax levy will increase 2.4 percent over last year, topping off at $3.82 million.
"People automatically think that the levy goes up because you are spending more money; that is not the case here," Politi said. "Expenditures are down. The problem that we are facing here is that revenues are down and as a result of the decline in our economic markets that has affected our real estate, landfill fees and mortgage tax have all been detrimental to our revenue stream."
Thanks to a healthy fund balance, even with the levy increase, tax rates in the town's five districts are expected to decrease between 10.8 percent and 34 percent.
And although the town's total assessed value has increased roughly 4 percent, Politi expects tax bills to be the same or lower than 2009.
In the 2010 budget, $310,000 was slashed from general town expenditures, $230,000 from the highway budget and $137,000 from the park district.
According to Highway Superintendent Larry Straight, roadwork will still continue, but at reduced levels.
Politi and Budget Officer Catherine Gregory predict that traditional town revenue streams like mortgage tax and building permit fees will continue to plummet.
In 2007, North Elba made $475,000 in mortgage tax revenue. Thus far in 2009, only $152,250 has come into town coffers.
Gregory said that she anticipates an additional 12.5 percent decrease in mortgage tax revenue in 2010.
All elected and appointed town officials and part-time employees have accepted a pay freeze, while union employees have accepted a reduced pay increase of 2.5 percent.
The board has also budgeted money for the installation of a recycling machine at the town transfer station that will allow people to use their bottle deposits to pay for dump fees.