Lake George Village yet again proposes an annual budget with no tax increase despite ever-rising employee benefit expenses.
Despite increases in several key expenses, property taxes in the Village of Lake George are to remain stable, according to the municipality’s preliminary 2013-14 budget proposed this week by Mayor Robert Blais.
The spending plan, which extends from June 1 to May 31, calls for $1,311,900 to be raised by taxes compared to $1,311,883 the previous year, an increase of $17. The proposed budget will be voted on following a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday April 8.
While costs of employee benefits continued to rise in village government, increases in municipal revenues are expected to offset the hike.
The total General Fund appropriations rose from $4,072,732 to $4,250,660, but are accommodated by a substantial increase in revenues of $2,693,760. While increases in employee benefits continued to rise, the Village reduced their health insurance premiums by changing providers and receiving a slight increase in employee contributions. Employee benefits, the largest single line item, declined this year from $670,300 to $639,857.
The tax rate per thousand has decreased from $8.48 to $6.04 due to a reevaluation of local property assessments. As a result, some residents may experience a decrease in their tax bills as the Village’s total assessment rose to $216,961,675.
The Village’s bond debt increased from $624,750 to $681,681, due largely to over $1.8 million in improvements planned for the Shepard Park Pump Station.
However, the Village’s credit rating has been increased to A+, affording a lower interest rate for debt. Blais said the boosted rating reflects village Clerk-Treasurer Darlene Gunther’s “intelligent use of Village funds and accounting practices.”
The proposed budget grants village employees a 50 cents per hour raise or approximately 2.5 percent increase overall. Department heads are scheduled to receive a flat $2,000 per year increase. No raises are appropriated for the elected officials.
Support for Village special events has also increased with over $147,000 earmarked to benefit local groups and events such as the Lake George Arts Project and their annual jazz festival, Lake George Community Band, Lake George Winter Carnival and weekly fireworks. Funds have been included to support a new major event, Save Our Lake Festival, scheduled for fall.
The Village has also allocated over $30,000 in its preliminary budget to fight invasive species — and Blais expects that revenue from the lake fest may double that sum. A business marketing study and a sheriff’s office foot patrol are also included in the budget as well.
Mayor Blais credited strong revenues as the major factor in holding the line on property taxes. These major revenues include: sales tax, $525,000; parking meters, $590,000; property rentals, $64,500; and fines, $138,000.
Blais said it was remarkable that well over 50 percent of the budget was supported by outside revenue, paid primarily by visitors.
On the other hand, visitors are offered a variety of free attractions and events, including weekly fireworks during summer, nightly concerts and shows in Shepard Park, Blais said.
“The services necessary to operate a successful resort community are paid for substantially by our visitors,” he said in a prepared statement.
The Village’s water fund, raised separately in quarterly billings to users also shows no increase for 2013-2014 with the proposed expenditures of $864,300, reduced $2,000 from the previous year.
No major capital expenditures are planned for 2013-2014 except the improvements to the water treatment plant. Three new public docks will be installed with grants covering 50 percent of the total cost, estimated to be $170,000.
“Our Village employees continue to cooperate with us on flexible summer hours, saving thousands in overtime costs,” Blais said. “Our departments work together to accomplish major construction projects and our excellent sharing of services with the Town of Lake George all contributed to another great year financially.”