Public hearing Oct. 8: Tentative town budget approved

Public hearing Oct. 8: Tentative town budget approved

By Austin Crosier

Led by Town Supervisor Matt Hicks and Granville Town Board members James Bradt and Tom Cosey, the board discussed and approved the tentative budget for 2021 on Thursday night.

The estimated levy amount to be billed by Washington County would be a 1.78 percent tax increase, or $22,936.

“Two percent is the magic number,” Hicks said. He aims to keep the increase below two percent each year.

The town expects to have $3,093 available in funds to be flexed in different categories in order to stay under the cap.

Under the section of “General Town Wide,” significant changes were made in franchise fees, seeing a $13,000 increase from $27,800 to $40,800 going into the new year. Hicks explained this is due to the partnership with Spectrum and requiring a stable internet and phone connection.

In the same section, State Revenue Aid and Municipalities (AIM) would be reduced from the normal $45,700 to $36,560.

“We have to budget as if we’re not gonna get any… we’re gonna budget ahead so we don’t take a hit next year,” Hicks said.

An intriguing statistic is found in the May disbursement of the mortgage tax section of $34,834.34. The town is expecting another disbursement in November, despite the cap being $55,000.

“If that (disbursement) matches, we’re gonna be $20,000 over the budget,” Hicks said. “But how the hell do you gauge how real estate is gonna be next year? So, we’re keeping it flat.”

Hicks explained to the board members and public in attendance the changes made to each category were typically two percent reductions or additions to keep level with the 1.76 percent tax the town is expecting from Washington County. The goal is to make it a zero percent increase to benefit the taxpayers and members of the community, but realistically, it takes money to make money.

The Summer Youth Recreation Program fund was increased for next year just as a safety measure, as New York State’s minimum wage is expected to rise to $12.50 per hour.

In the “Highway Town Wide” section, the categories of Social Security, machinery and personal Services and snow removal wages would all be increased by two percent, generating more money in the pockets of the Highway Department workers.

Hicks said was uncertain in his assessment of “General Outside”, as COVID-19 has made it extremely difficult to predict how much money should be allocated for each category.

“Some of these things you just don’t know how to budget,” Hicks said.

Under “Highway Outside,” a clear discrepancy from 2020 going into 2021 that appears to be significant is the increase from $65,000 to $88,000 in the highway medical insurance category.

Joel Carpenter, CPA, explained although the increase looks daunting, it’s really just getting back on pace to prior years’ numbers and adjusting to workers who may have been married and had their spouse join their insurance plan.

“It looks bad, but that’s the original budget,” Carpenter said. “New guys went from singles to families.”

More than $111,000 is expected to be allocated for the “North Granville Water District” section, primarily as a safety net for water main breaks that may occur that deplete the fund. This would be an $8,360 increase from 2020.

Hicks said the Town will look into applying for a water grant in 2021 to be used for improving infrastructure. He also stated the town has seen a five percent increase in water taxes in an effort to sustain that fund.

Hicks said at the conclusion of the meeting he expects Washington County to present its budget some time in November. According to Hicks, the county is anticipating to be working with a budget of about $110 million.

The preliminary budget meeting will take place on Thursday Oct. 8 at 7 p.m., where Hicks encourages the public to join, raise questions and discuss the budget with himself and the rest of the board.

“We’re open to suggestions,” Hicks said.