SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan reports that 2013 City general fund (operating budget)
revenues have outpaced City expenses, and unaudited year-end figures reveal an annual operating
surplus. For 2013, the City is required to have a fund balance between $4,044,002 and $6,066,003.
Unaudited figures indicate that the surplus resulted in a fund balance that is in excess of the
maximum amount by about $1.7 million.
The 2013 surplus is driven by higher than expected revenues coupled with lower than budgeted
expenses. Actual revenue collected totaled $41,585,774. Actual expenditures totaled $38,846,104.
On the revenue side: Mortgage tax collection was unexpectedly high, building permits and planning
board fees followed suit. VLT Aid, distributed by the state to offset the costs of hosting VLTs, was
increased by $331,251 by the State in the late spring of 2013 (after the City’s budget had been adopted).
The City ambulance program also collected more revenue than anticipated, and sales tax revenue
topped out at $10.65 million – the highest collection that the City has ever experienced. In sum,
revenues collected were $848,872 more than amounts budgeted.
On the expense side: Due to adjustments to new health insurance programs and slower than
anticipated hiring for new positions (and those left open by employee turnover), expenditures for
employee benefits and personal service funds were lower than had been budgeted. Commissioner
Madigan cautions Departments to forecast expenses carefully. “I will be scrutinizing this in 2014 through
2015. We must strive to establish a balanced budget that adequately funds the delivery of solid essential
services in a safe community.
Commissioner Madigan states “these funds should be returned to the taxpayers, possibly through
reduced property tax rates if closer scrutiny of departmental budgets and expected revenues reveal
that this would be sustainable”. Madigan points out that she has kept property taxes low with her
recommendations to: create and strengthen reserves that have helped keep annual changes to the tax
rate at or near 0% for two years; contribute to critical capital needs, such as infrastructure and
equipment; plan for future retirement needs; and, she has set aside funds to settle long expired labor
City policy requires that any funds in excess of the maximum allowable Fund Balance be utilized, and the
Commissioner of Finance is required to make recommendations to the City Council regarding the use of
such funds. There is one long awaited project that she will recommend for immediate attention:
updating the City website. Limited resources and funding has made upgrading the website a challenge
in recent years. “This is beneficial to our citizens, the business community, City departments and our
City. The City website is a portal to City government and a vital gateway to the City. This is an
opportunity to use one time funding for a one time project that is universally beneficial.”