Town weighs pay hikes in 2013 budget

T he town board of trustees is weighing whether it should hand out raises to its employees.

The board discussed giving its employees a modest increase in pay during its initial budget workshop held last Wednesday at the Canal Corp. Visitors Center. A final determination has not been made, however, and it remains possible that no increase will be given out.

In fact, the board had the pay hikes, which were included in the town’s tentative budget for 2013, rolled back to 2012 levels until a decision is made.

It’s unclear whether the raises, which were discussed in executive session, would extend to all employees or only some. The board is also deliberating how large the raise would be, if one is given at all.

Town councilman Richard LaChapelle suggested the board consider a 2 to 5 percent increase but only if it can be accommodated without creating a considerable increase in taxes.

After adjusting the budget to reflect no pay increases and factoring in a number of conservative cuts that were made during the meeting, the board was looking at an increase of 1.62 percent compared to last year’s budget.

That figure is comfortably below the 2 percent tax cap, which officials overrode last year, increasing taxes by around 10 percent.

But that number is expected to fluctuate in the coming weeks as board members consider further cuts and determine if a pay raise is feasible.

“I think there are some areas that we can cut further,” said Supervisor George Armstrong.

On Wednesday the board slashed $62,793 in expenses from next year’s initial figures. Most of that figure, $60,196, was cut from the town’s general fund. The board cut $40,000 from the Skenesborough Museum’s cultural recreation and equipment capital fund at the request of director Carol Greenough

The town had increased that line item by $40,000 for the upcoming year, primarily because the museum is in need of a new roof. But Greenough said the historical society was willing to foot most of the cost of a new roof using an endowment left to it last year by former resident Edward Scott.

The remainder of the savings were realized by removing pay raises that had initially been factored into next year’s budget.

 

After making the adjustments, next year’s total expenses — pending further adjustments next week — are estimated at $1,023,495, an increase of just over $41,000 compared to last year.

Interestingly the board also adjusted next year’s estimated revenues, eliminating $4,000 the town expected to receive from the sale of transfer station tickets. The adjustment was made in light of Washington County’s recent decision to retain an attorney and seek a request for proposals for the sale or lease of the five county-owned transfer stations.

Officials don’t want to overestimate its revenues if the transfer stations are sold next year.

The board has yet to finalize any of its expenses — revenues aren’t expect to change much — and board members were asked to further examine the budget and identify areas where the town may be able to save money. They will also consider whether to hand out pay raises.

The board will reconvene at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at the former Skenesborough firehouse to make further adjustments. After the board finalizes the numbers for the 2013 budget, a public hearing will be held and then the board will vote on whether or not to accept it.

The clerk’s office will be closed on Thursday and Friday, Oct. 11 and 12, as the town makes its long-awaited move from the Canal Visitors Center to the Whitehall Municipal Center (formerly the Skenesborough firehouse). The offices will reopen in their new location on Monday, Oct. 15. Hours are not expected to change.

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