CLAYTON – The village board has almost completed its annual budget process for the coming year and will increase the tax rate by about 6 cents.
The new tax rate will be $ 7.812377 per $ 1,000 of property value. This means that a $ 100,000 house in the village will have a village property tax bill of around $ 781. Last year, the tax rate was $ 7.756751, meaning that a $ 100,000 home had a tax bill of about $ 775.
Overall, the village expects to raise approximately $ 1,425,800 in taxes this year to support the general fund of $ 2,489,531. They will make up the difference, $ 1,063,731, in other revenues such as sales taxes or hotel room occupancy taxes.
Mayor Norma J. Zimmer described this year’s budget as cautiously optimistic and relatively conservative, as the village struggles to recover from the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of this cautious optimism, the village plans to take about $ 580,000 in sales tax revenue this year, up from $ 403,882 in revenue last year.
“We imposed a sales tax on what we had before COVID,” she said. “With sales tax we are not 100% sure, but I hope for a banner year. You just don’t know how things are going to turn out.
The village, which sees a large chunk of its sales tax revenue generated by tourists visiting during the summer months, expected the revenue stream to dry up as tourism lagged at the height of the pandemic last summer. For the 2020-2021 budget, which covers last year starting in May through the end of April 2021, the city collected $ 476,585 in sales tax revenue. This is more than the expected $ 403,882, but still far less than the $ 623,871 the village took the year before.
The financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has never been more bad for local governments than expected. At some point in the middle of last year, New York State began notifying cities, towns, counties and school districts that they would cut all state aid by 20%, which has left many local officials looking at the giant holes in their budgets. These cuts have largely not taken place, and an influx of federal financial assistance has filled many holes in the state budget.
Mayor Zimmer said this has made the village board a bit more confident heading into fiscal 2021, although he remains cautious.
“Now we know what the state has and what it’s going to do, it’s been helpful,” she said. “But we are never convinced that the governor is not yet withdrawing part of our sales tax.”
Last year, some local governments saw their Aid and Incentive Payments to Municipalities, or AIMs, which are a form of state aid to local towns and villages, reduced by around 5%. In Clayton, the state took that money out of sales tax revenue instead.
“It was a little uncertain if we get it,” Mayor Zimmer said, noting that the state has yet to promise their aid payments will return to normal.
The village budget provides about $ 12,000 in AIM payments for the upcoming fiscal year – as they did for 2020. This total is down about $ 20,000 from 2019.
The village is also building up a fund balance, or unspent money from one fiscal year that can be turned into a sort of savings account. The budget projects that the village will have $ 587,091 in unspent fund balance by the end of this coming fiscal year, up significantly from the $ 328,249 in fund balance remaining last year. Mayor Zimmer said the village recently established a policy on the balance of funds to be maintained.
“The board of directors is committed to increasing the balance in this fund, so we are on the right track,” she said.
The only major change in the departmental budget in the village budget concerns the village police department. For the coming year, the village plans to spend around $ 161,129 on police salaries and benefits. This represents a decrease from the $ 174,228 budgeted for the 2020-2021 budget and much less than the $ 249,931 spent on salaries in the police service in the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
Mayor Zimmer said the reduction was due to one fewer full-time police officer in the police force than in 2019.
“We have a lot of replacements and we fill them up when we need them, but we no longer have the expense of a full-time officer there,” she said. “Now we have the chief, an officer and use part-time employees as needed.”
Last year, the village chose to eliminate four full-time positions from its budget in order to save money and reduce surpluses. Mayor Zimmer said this year the village is bringing an employee back to its treasurer’s office.
“We only have one person there now and you really can’t function with one,” she said.
In 2019, the village spent $ 126,229 on treasurer’s office staff and reduced this total to $ 53,067 for the 2020-2021 budget. This year, they bring that total down to $ 93,480.
The village budget also establishes the operating expenses and tariffs of the village water and sewer networks. This year, the water and sewer rates charged to customers will remain unchanged, and both funds have an available balance of over $ 1 million.
The village water fund is counting on approximately $ 185,455 in fund balance for its operating expenses this year, but $ 1,320,478 in fund balance remains.
Mayor Zimmer said throughout this year’s budgeting process, the village council kept the COVID-19 pandemic and its possible effects on income in mind. She said they remain optimistic about the potential for success of this summer season, as people in the village now know how to handle operations in the event of a pandemic.
“Some people did very well last year,” she said. “They had to reinvent themselves, they did things to make it more convenient to stay outside, and I think that will continue. People want to be away, and I think the issues with that were resolved last year, and it will really help everyone get through the season.
The village council took the public comment on the budget at its meeting on Monday. Only one person spoke at this meeting, and the board is considering these comments before voting on whether or not to pass the budget at its April 26 meeting.