At this rate, an average taxpayer with an assessed home value of $200,000 will see a reduction in their property tax from $1,212.80 in 2011 to $1,204.76 in 2012 - a reduction of $8.04.
Before the amendments, the original comprehensive budget had called for a property tax increase of .54 percent. In a presentation outlining the highlights of the amended budget, Commissioner of Finance Kenneth Ivins noted that there were updated figures for several revenue and expense line items. These updated numbers allowed for adding back some department's expense requests that were not included in the comprehensive budget, in addition to the tax rate reduction.
This budget also retains a balance of $4.2 million in unreserved, unappropriated funds, as well as a $1 million tax stabilization fund that was established after video lottery terminal funds were reallocated to the city by New York State.
In the amended budget, upward revenue adjustments totaled $128,293.10, even after allowing for the tax reduction, based on updated 2011 figures. Commissioner Ivins noted that this was due to increased sales tax revenue, which was up almost $300,000, or over 4 percent, greater than 2011 through September of this year. Mortgage tax revenue was adjusted upward after 2011 came in $82,000 over budget. Increased revenue from building permits and Canfield Casino rental revenue also allowed for upward adjustments in the 2012 budget.
Expense reduction amendments came primarily from reduced health insurance costs, Ivins noted. The original comprehensive budget had numbers which were originally based on mid-year projections from insurance providers. When final rates came through in mid-November, they were significant enough to allow for a reduction of $200,000 to that item, even with an allowance for unforeseen circumstances by city employees.
The meeting was scheduled around a public hearing on the budget, and the public comments were minimal save a few information requests about particular line items. Comments from the council were few also. Mayor Scott Johnson praised Commissioner Ivins for his work, stating that he was pleasantly surprised to see a rate reduction. Commissioner of Accounts John Franck noted that he might have opted to forecast a lower 2012 growth rate in sales tax than 4 percent, yet felt that the reserve funds would be sufficient to cover less than expected revenue in this area. Commissioner Franck and the other council members then adopted the amended budget by a roll-call vote.
The other major item of the meeting involved amending the 2011 capital budget to allow for an earlier beginning of the construction of the parking deck at 6 Woodlawn Avenue, with the intention to have it operational by June 2012, in time for the racing meet. Public comment about this item was divided. Incoming Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathiesen was among those who said it would be prudent, given economic conditions, to wait until after the next racing season and begin construction next September. Patrick Kane said that the idea was "a winner, but rushed, noting that he felt that there was inadequate fiscal information that was made available to the public. Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce took the position that this parking issue had been debated for almost 30 years and that proceeding in 2011 was highly desirable. Al Colucci echoed his support, noting that it was cost-effective to begin building now because contractor rates were low given economic conditions.
The scheduled vote on this item was removed by Mayor Johnson, as he felt that the public did not have enough notice to digest the particulars after the Thanksgiving holiday. The public hearing will continue until the next council meeting, Tuesday, December 6, at which time a vote on this capital budget amendment is expected.