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Budget preparations ongoing in Albany County towns

Oct 16, 2020 5:30 am
Noah Zweifel is reporting for The Altamont Enterprise on the tentative 2021 budgets prepared by the towns of Berne, Knox and Westerlo in Albany County. In Berne, property taxes are down and salaries are up in its tentative 2021 budget. The highway superintendent is scheduled to receive a 12.6-percent raise; the building inspector, a 23-percent raise; and the code-enforcement officer, a 24-percent raise, in addition to a property tax decrease of more than 13 percent. The suggested decrease in the tax levy comes despite an almost $156,000 drop in county sales tax revenue. Supervisor Sean Lyons could not be reached for comment, but the potential 13-percent tax decrease is believed to be the result of reduced expenses, including maintenance supplies for buildings, computer equipment, the highway buildings account, the town park account and garbage charges. Tax rates are steady in the town of Knox’s tentative $2.2 million budget for 2021, which also projects higher revenues and higher spending. The tentative spending plan, with no tax levy increase, must be adopted by November 20 after a series of town workshops. The draft spending plan was crafted by Town Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis. “We have worked extremely hard over the past five years micromanaging our budget by reducing expenses, holding vendors accountable, negotiating purchases, and accounting for every penny, and it has paid off,” Lefkaditis said. Total spending will increase by $22,000, while revenue, aside from property taxes, is projected to increase by nearly $51,000, and sales-tax revenue is expected to total $930,000, about $78,000 less than last year. Westerlo’s 2021 tentative budget features big changes with a revenue loss of more than $200,000 and a nearly six percent property tax increase that covers what could not be saved through expense reductions. The tentative $2.9 million budget is a first draft. Supervisor William Bichteman said, “... There’s no doubt that the coronavirus has impacted our town and certainly you can’t deny the downturn in the state’s economy or the corresponding sales slump. ...” The sales tax revenue projected totals $950,000, compared to last year's anticipated income of $1.25 million. The preliminary spending plan reflects a decrease in allocations totaling almost $135,000, including two highway department layoffs, reductions in employee mileage reimbursements, office supplies, museum contractual expenses and more. Read more in The Altamont Enterprise.