Harrietstown budget hearing is tonight | News, Sports, Jobs

SARANAC LAKE — Harrietstown’s proposed $6.66 million budget for 2023 would fall below the state’s tax cap and includes a much lower salary increase for the town supervisor than originally requested. City Council will hold a public hearing on the budget tonight at 5 p.m. in City Council Chambers.

The city’s proposed budget of $6,664,749, if approved, would increase spending by 15.6%, or $898,023, over this year’s budget of $5,766,726.

To pay for this, the budget proposes that the city collect or levy $2,713,843 in taxes, or $56,307 more than this year, an increase of 2.12%. Supervisor Jordanna Mallach said the state set the city’s tax cap at $2,740,933 this year, so this levy is $27,000 below the cap.

The budget also proposes to use $428,600 from city reserves.

Mallach said that after that $428,600 allocation — which she said was needed to keep the budget below the fiscal cap, and which is $50,000 less than what was used from reserves this year – the city still ends up with more than a million dollars in its reserves. She said that equates to about two to three months of emergency operating expenses. Mallach thinks it’s a “in good health” balance.

The tax rate for someone living in the city – as well as the Village of Saranac Lake – would be $1.90 per $1,000 of assessed value, not including taxes for additional fire districts, water or sewer. The tax rate for someone living in the city, outside of the village, would be $1.46 per $1,000 of assessed value of a home, not including taxes for additional districts of fire, water or sewer.

For someone whose home is valued at $300,000, this would represent a base tax rate of $570 for town-village homeowners and $438 for town-only homeowners.

Mallach said spending for the city was up this year for several reasons. Due to inflation, the prices of almost everything have gone up. Health insurance for employees and building and vehicle insurance are also more expensive.

Mallach said the city is also making investments in the community that she hopes will pay off in the long run. A $700,000 sand-and-salt shed the city is building has a $400,000 grant from the state, but still leads to an increase in the city’s debt.

Wages

Mallach said stay below tax cap, council had to say “Nope” to certain requests for salary increases from department heads or employees. She said board members were also committed to sticking to the tax cap, believing that given the economic challenges people are facing, the right thing for taxpayers is not to exceed the tax cap.

She believes that to exceed the cap, which would require a special vote of the council, the city would have to have a specific and unforeseen expense, which she does not anticipate next year.

Mallach said there has been a lot of talk about salaries this year. In the end, the council approved a 2% salary increase for the four council members and a 10% salary increase for all other city employees. Those increases, she said, were funded by state and federal funds the city has received from coronavirus relief funds over the past two years.

Mallach got the same 10% as everyone else. In September, she had asked for a raise of around 100%, which was controversial among some board members. At the time, she said she believed the time and work she put into the city, and the tens of thousands of dollars she saved the city in her first year at the bar, were worth it.

Some board members said she was trying to turn the supervisor position into a full-time position, which traditionally wasn’t the case.

Mallach said on Tuesday that she calculated that she worked an average of 30 hours a week. Now, she said, as she completes major projects on the city’s phone system and website, she expects to be able to cut back on her time with the city while putting in all the hours needed to its proper functioning.

Had she gotten the raise she asked for, Mallach said she would have spent more time researching grant opportunities, which she still will, just not as much. She said that in future budgets, the city may consider budgeting for a part-time grants writer to seek funds to develop infrastructure and resources for city residents.

Tonight’s budget hearing will be held in person only at 5 p.m. in the Harrietstown Board Room at City Hall. It will not be broadcast live. Mallach said there will be cookies at the meeting.

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