The balance for the town’s $6.99 million budget will be made up by $4.94 million in non-property tax revenues, $73,296 appropriated from the general fund balance and $1.98 million levied in taxes.
There is no town or highway tax, the $1.98 million tax levy will be applied to the Town of Ballston Community Library, special districts and certain water districts. Special districts include fire, ambulance, street lighting and Jenkins Park
The adopted tax levy represents a 1.21 percent increase in the amount of $23,721 over the current year’s levy. The 2018 budget is below the state property tax cap.
The adopted budget features an unfunded state mandate for storm water maintenance that will cost an estimated $100,000 next year, healthcare costs will increase by approximately 10 percent, town employees will receive a two percent salary excluding the library where the part time wage has been adjusted to attract applicants and a change in the town’s equalization rate resulted in increased sales tax revenues.
While Town Supervisor Tim Szczepaniak voiced his support for the 2018 town budget, he noted that water was an issue.
“It’s no surprise, you take a look at the water budget and we’re heading for bankruptcy in the water arena,” Szczepaniak said.
Following a review of water rates, the town discovered that the water rate for residents is roughly $2 below the amount needed to cover the town’s current costs. Two factors contributing to the water budget shortfall is an annual ad valorem charge of $185,000 for water provided by the Town of Glenville and outdated water meters.
To address the first concern, Szczepaniak said that the board has begun looking for other water sources outside of Glenville.
“We can’t continue down this track of paying Glenville that amount,” Szczepaniak said. “We’re doing some research, we’re doing our due diligence to correct this problem. In the end we will turn it around, that’s what we are obligated as a town board to do.”
Additionally, according to Town Highway Superintendent Joseph Whalen the town is suffering losses due to outdated meters that are not accurately charging residents.
Whalen estimated that there are 900 water meters in town that are 30 to 40 years old and these units provide readings that are only 65 to 75 percent accuracy.
“You’re losing that 30 percent at you’re meter because it’s old and these meters start getting to 20 to 30 years and they’re not reading properly,” Whalen said.
To address this issue the town recently secured a grant for $100,000 to replace a number of the faulty unity with the help of State Sen. Jim Tedisco (R,C,I, REF-Glenville).
Whalen cautioned the board that the funds would only cover the cost of about 275 of the 900 units requiring replacement not including the cost of labor and it can take up to a year to receive grant funds. He estimated that replacing 300 of the unreliable water meters would increase water revenue by $20,000 annually.
The Town Board is discussing taking out a band to replace the remaining water meters and Whalen shared that the New York Rural Water Association has assisted the town by searching for leaks in the water lines free of charge for the last two years.
In the short term, the board decided that it was necessary to raise the water rate to address the shortfall in that area of the budget.
Town Budget Officer Jeanette Borthwick presented the board with four options to cover the water budget gap by increasing the water rate by $.25 per 1,000 gallons, $.50, $.75 or $1.00.
By increasing the rate by $.25 per 1,000 gallons of water and using $66,796 from the appropriated fund balance, the town can cover the loss in about four years. Borthwick cautioned that this option would leave the town without funds set aside for emergencies, contingencies or long-term planning.
By increasing the rate by $1 the town could avoid appropriating funds and would have roughly $20,000 in contingency for the water fund, while making up the loss in about a year.
Increasing the rate by $.50 and using $29,283 would again leave the town without contingency funds and raising the rate by $.75 would leave the town with about $6,500 in contingency funds.
According to Szczepaniak the board initialed discussed raising the rate the full amount needed to cover the gap before opting for the $.25 rate increase, noting that residents would see their fees increase once the faulty water meters are replaced and they are charged the correct amount for their consumption.
“Our biggest issue is water, but we have action being taken on that, more like a long-term solution,” Szczepaniak said.