AT A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE TOWN BOARD OF THE TOWN OF NISKAYUNA DULY CALLED AND HELD ON THE 20th OF NOVEMBER, 2007, AT THE NISKAYUNA TOWN BOARD ROOM, ONE NISKAYUNA CIRCLE, NISKAYUNA, NEW YORK, THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS WERE PRESENT;
LIZ ORZEL KASPER, COUNCILWOMAN
WILLIAM R. CHAPMAN, COUNCILMAN
MARIE P. FREUND, COUNCILWOMAN
DIANE P. O’DONNELL, COUNCILWOMAN
LUKE J. SMITH, SUPERVISOR
Also present: Helen Kopke, Town Clerk; Eric Dickson, Town Attorney; Richard Pollock, Superintendent of Water & Sewer; Paul Sebesta, Comptroller; Lew Moskowitz, Chief of Police; Frank Gavin, Superintendent of Highways, and Amy Houlihan, Assessor.
PRIVILEGE OF THE FLOOR
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, was informed that there were no substantive changes to the budget since the public hearing for the budget to be voted on by the Board.
The following resolutions were approved with a five ayes unless otherwise stated.
Resolution 2007-237 approved the Preliminary Budget of the Town for 2008. The resolution was approved with a vote of three ayes (Councilman Chapman and Councilwoman Kasper voted no).
Councilwoman O’Donnell stated that at all levels of government the property tax burden for New York Start property owners is a big concern. She hears about this in her work on a daily basis since she works on the STAR property rebate. No one wanted a tax increase but there are some realities the Board has to deal with. She thinks that the combination of taxes at all levels is what is creating a huge burden on people whether it’s the County, the School, and the Town. She thinks we need to work on solutions at all levels of government, not just at the local level. This budget does not have any new or extravagant purchases of equipment or programs and she knows the Board will continue to look at every job, every piece of equipment, and every
expenditure to save money.
We are trying to deliver the services that the Town residents want to have. There were suggestions about no salary increases for certain Town employees but she didn’t think that this was a way to solve problems this year for hard working employees.
For our Town taxes last year the roads were plowed 25 times, sanded 19 times, yard waste was collected 37 times, leaf pickup four times, residents took thousands of showers, ran our dishwashers and flushed our toilets and we had our water delivered and we got the proper result when we turned on the faucet and flushed the toilet. The police visited her house when she needed them several times during a power outage and during a health emergency. When she puts together what we provide property owners for their tax dollar in Town we have a tight and very defendable budget. Unfortunately with the cost of fuels and health care and other things going up and revenues staying flat, this is where we are.
Supervisor Smith was disappointed in the size of the tax increase this year. In terms of a dollar amount it’s not terribly significant but for some people on fixed income every bit is significant. If this continues to be a trend he certainly would think we would have to provide services differently or perhaps not providing some services. He hopes that this is not a continuing trend. He hears is that the economy is going to turn around early next year. Hopefully this is the case and he feels the Board bit the bullet this year and hopefully things will straighten out a little bit. As we look at the sales tax distribution hopefully we will be able to gain some greater revenues from it which will help out the Town. Any tax
increase is disappointing but he thinks this is a responsible budget and if we cut further it would an irresponsible budget.
The attorney’s office was singled out from the salary increases that contractual and non-represented employees are getting and he is not sure why. He thinks they work just as hard as anyone else. Overall it is a good and responsible budget and hopefully with money in the revenue stream we will be able to get back on track
Councilman Chapman stated he would have liked to have seen the Town Board involved in the budget process sooner. It was a shock to everyone to see the Tentative Budget with a proposed increase of 11.4%. Supervisor Smith stated that the process started with a 35% proposed increase, with the Tentative at 11.4%. Councilman Chapman noted that the Tentative was 11.4% but we had overestimated sales tax revenue and if we didn’t have this sales tax overestimate we would have probably started at 12.4%. He thinks the Board did a good job in getting the budget down 2.5% to 9.9%. He thinks the Preliminary Budget is tighter in terms of anticipated revenue and expenditures.
He suggested that the next Board should get the Department Head requests in early August including a memo that explains any changes up or down with reference to line items. It is also helpful for the budget to be discussed in their respective committee and he thinks this has been missing in recent years. He knows by law it is the Supervisor’s responsibility to prepare a Tentative Budget but this doesn’t mean that the Supervisor can’t reach out to the Board to help solicit input and having more eyes on the budget. Julie McDonnell, who is joining the Board, is an auditor, and Diane O’Donnell has considerable experience in her State work in budgeting. An early miscalculation on last year’s tax rate affected this budget that wasn’t discovered until a day
or two before the Tentative was due.
Supervisor Smith noted that we have had this discussion before. The development of the Tentative Budget is an on-going process of about six weeks and it is not a question of setting up meetings with the full Board or they would never get it done. As it is they wind up at the eleventh hour still making changes to it. He perceives that it is his responsibility to deliver the first draft of the Tentative Budget. Councilman Chapman stated that it would be helpful to the Board to allow them to do their work so much of that doesn’t get pushed into the six week period. It is not a hardship to give the budget requests to the Department Heads earlier which gives the Board August and September to look at them which gives time to discuss them in
committee and ask questions. He felt it would allow the Board to do its work without necessarily having to have meetings.
The Board receives monthly expenditure reports from the Comptroller and he felt the Board could pay closer attention to these. As 2007 unfolded and we saw our sales tax and mortgage tax revenue declining we could have made some adjustments in purchases or hiring decisions that could have conserved funds in 2007 which would have given us more fund balance and may have helped with the proposed tax increase for 2008. He would like to see the monthly Comptroller’s report include an indication of the main revenue and expenditure sources and if the Town is on target with our projections. This would allow for mid-course corrections.
The Comptroller also has more detail on what is in each budget line and it should be shared with the Board so it isn’t such a struggle with what is on each line item as they go through the budget. If there are items that are anticipated for bonding that will not go in the budget, the Board should receive these bonding lists. Also, it is helpful to have all Department Heads attend the budget workshops. We had good attendance by some but others we did not see at all. It is important if they want to defend or explain their budget they be present.
Resolution 2007-238 adopted the Assessment Roll and the budget for 2008 for Consolidated Water District No. 1
Resolution 2007-239 adopted the Assessment Roll and the budget for 2008 Consolidated Sewer District No. 1
Resolution 2007-240 adopted the Assessment Roll and the budget for 2008 for Sewer District No. 6.
Resolution 2007-241 adopted the Assessment Roll and the budget for 2008 for Drainage Districts No. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 24, and 28.
Resolution 2007-242 adopts the Budget for 2008 for Lighting District No. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.
Resolution 2007-243 adopts the Budget for 2008 for Park Districts No. 1, 2, 3, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13.
Resolution 2007-244 accepts a proposal for the preparation and submittal of a Shared Municipal Services Incentive (SMSI) Grant Application to provide funding to assist with the consolidation of the Town Water & Sewer Department and the Niskayuna Central School District bus and grounds maintenance facilities and accepts the proposal of C.T. Male to prepare the application in the amount of $2,800.
The resolution was approved with a vote of four ayes with Councilman Chapman voting no.
Supervisor Smith stated there are 6.8 acres at the Water & Sewer Garage, and 4.4 acres of land near Town Hall, but this is not necessarily a total swap of land. We are getting the appraisals done to see what the values are of the properties so that when and if a final agreement is done it would be equitable for the School District residents and the Town residents. He doesn’t think we need 6.8 acres but there is a potential for building on WTRY Road. C. T. Male will be perfecting the grant application for these Shared Municipal Services up to $200,000 per municipality (School and Town).
Councilman Chapman wondered if we would have to do the whole parcel or is the school district more interested the part closer to Nott Street East for their road circulation. They are interested in the whole parcel, but no one has agreed to anything at this point. We would have to be looking at what the comparable values are. Supervisor Smith thinks they would like the land for future parking space or tennis courts. The major use now is at the beginning of Nott Street East because they have need to open up a turning lane going into the High School.
Councilman Chapman is reluctant to part with this land because this was an intended location for a community/senior center. The original bond referendum which included the library, swimming pool, community center and town hall did not pass, but subsequent to that there was a bond issue of $3.4 million that passed for the Town Hall and the County built the branch library and the school district now has a pool. While our facility on Aqueduct Road is a good one, it’s not walk-able for most residents and something close to Town Hall would be walk-able for many more residents. Having property in the center of Town for a senior center which is close to shopping, housing, post office, library, swimming pool, high school, and Town Hall would be extremely value for future use. There are
other possibilities with respect to a Water Sewer Garage such as leasing land from the school or at Hillside Commerce Park. He thinks it would be a mistake for the Town to trade or sell this property.
Supervisor Smith continued that if the Board does not approve this resolution they would closing the door on the grant for this year no matter which way they decide to move. Final decisions are not being made and we don’t know the value of the property or what ultimately the future Board might decide to do with this land. The resolution is just to get a grant application to hopefully get some money if the decision is made to move forward on this. The Town has been talking about the Water & Sewer Garage for about three years. The grant is up to $200,000 per municipality with $13.7 million state-wide. We know, however, much of this will go to New York City and there are 952 towns. Frank Gavin also has a grant application in for the wash bay to do our water/oil
The grant would be for shared services which would constructed in such a way that we would swap property where we would build their maintenance garage onto our Water & Sewer garage and we’ll lease that back to them. The grant can be submitted before the appraisals are done.
Stanford Crossing Project
Supervisor Smith announced that the Town Attorney was working on the appeal for the Stanford Crossings project and he was in the process of perfecting this appeal whose deadline is November 30.
Town Attorney Eric Dickson stated that the Town has a letter from the Appellate division that the appeal has been scheduled for argument in February 2008. He has a direction from them to file the Town’s brief by the end of November. Our Notice of Appeal was the first step in allowing the Town the option to perfect the appeal which is when we file our brief.
There has been some previous discussion about the fact that the discussion on this question was not public so he is appropriately discussing this in a public meeting and have a record made in the minutes of the Town Board’s will with respect to this particular item.
We are at the point where the appeal should be perfected and he wanted the Town Board’s direction with respect to whether or not we will move forward. The appeal has been discussed in public, but they also had discussions in executive session on two occasions. Supervisor Smith stated that the position the Town agreed to was to go forward with the appeal and he asked the Board if anyone has changed their mind. Councilman Chapman stated he was opposed to the appeal; Councilwoman Kasper stated she was opposed to the appeal; Supervisor Smith stated he was in favor of the appeal; Councilwoman O’Donnell stated she wanted to continue (with the appeal); Councilwoman Freund stated she had every confidence and was in favor of the appeal. With the majority of the Board wishing to continue
with the appeal, Supervisor Smith authorized Attorney Dickson to perfect the appeal.
There being no further business to come before the Town Board, Supervisor Smith adjourned the meeting.
Helen Kopke, Town Clerk