Saranac Lake Board of Trustees
As Saranac Lake Village Board members unanimously approved their 2012-13 budget April 23 — staying within the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap — they began planning for next year’s budget with the proposed creation of a village Finance Committee.
The general fund expenditures for 2012-13 will total $4,865,630, with a tex levy of $3,418,034, an increase of 1.99 percent.
While the Village Board was poised to give itself permission to exceed the state’s maximum tax levy increase of 2 percent, they didn’t need to do so.
Mayor Clyde Rabideau said at the April 20 budget hearing that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to balance the budget every year, especially with mandates coming from Albany.
“It’s a daunting task to stay sustainable in the years ahead, but our governor is putting the onus upon everyone in local government to do just that,” Rabideau said. “And if the state can lay off the mandates, give us a little bit of flexibility and we get creative, we hope to do it. It’s our job to find out ways to do it, but I would have to say to everybody in the village, and people that own property in the village, that the level of service might have to change.”
The Water expenditures will be $1,642,769, with a user revenue increase of $357,713 or 29 percent. The Sewer expenditures will be $2,169,146, with a user revenue increase of $54,838 or 2.72 percent.
The budget totals $8,677,545, including the general fund, Water and Sewer.
The tax rate for village property owners will increase by 3.18 percent. The village tax rate will be $11.09 per $1,000 assessed, up from $10.75 (an increase of $0.34).
The increase will be $20.52 for a property assessed at $60,000; $34.21 for a property assessed at $100,000; and $47.89 for a property assessed at $140,000.
Upon a recommendation from Village Treasurer Paul Ellis, Trustee Paul Van Cott wrote a memo to fellow Village Board members requesting that they create a Finance Committee to look at budget issues throughout the year. The committee would be comprised of Ellis, Village Manager John Sweeney and two board members.
“I do believe that our role in managing the village’s financial direction is one of the greatest values that we, as members of the Village Board, provide to village taxpayers,” Van Cott said during the board’s April 23 meeting.
The Finance Committee is designed so the village can “be more strategic about financial matters and for the Village Board to be more engaged in financial matters year-round.”
The idea was met with unanimous support at the board table.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Trustee Elias “Allie” Pelletieri. “We need to look at our budget before budget time comes every time, so this will be a structured thing. I know Paul has always said, ‘You’ve got to look at it before the last minute.’ But so many things go on that we never get to it the last minute.”
Having a committee work year-round will make sure Village Board members look at finances well before they traditionally trim the budget every April.
Trustee Tom Catillaz, who spent many years as village mayor, volunteered to be on the committee.
“We should and we can be presented with a budget at budget time that’s complete and not crunch time where, holy cow we have to go through it and go through it and go through it,” Catillaz said. “And when the time comes for the budget, here it is and that’s where we want to be.”
Trustee Barbara Rice called the committee “essential” and said that looking at the budget only at the last minute, before it needs to be adopted by the May 1 deadline, is not the most efficient way to draft a spending plan. She suggested that board members rotate in and out of the committee every year.
“I think it’s a good thing for all of us to have the experience, and fresh ideas and perspective are always good,” Rice said.
City option dead .. for now
Trustee Pelletieri wrote a memo to Village Board members about a recent meeting with Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury. At their April 23 meeting, Pelletieri told board members that he and Trustee Van Cott met with Sen. Little on Friday, April 20 to talk about the possibility of the village going to a city. He said he wanted to hear her opinion and ideas firsthand, and they walked away with the feeling that Saranac Lake will not become a city anytime soon.
“In our view, the chances of Saranac Lake becoming a city are slim to none at this time,” Pelletieri said. “We’re not giving up on it totally. Things could change in 10 years with the whole system of government.”