Another increase in pension costs is driving the proposed Hamburg town budget for next year, which is up 4.7 percent over this year’s spending level.
“The three biggest problems are the pension, the pension, the pension,” Supervisor Steven Walters said of the budget.
The town’s cost of paying into the pension for its employees will have more than tripled over five years, from $1.3 million in 2009 to $3.55 million next year.
“We cannot keep up with these rates of increase without eventually needing to do significant service cuts,” Walters said.
But significant cuts are not included in the 2013 budget he filed this week. Walters did not make any cuts to the department heads’ requests. He said he put them in the budget as requested so the Town Board can go over the budget as a group and decide what and where to cut.
“I want this to be a collaborative effort,” he said.
The tentative $42.3 million budget – up from this year’s $40.4 million budget – would raise taxes but is below the tax cap imposed by New York State. The tax cap, with exemptions allowed under the law, is close to 5 percent. The tax levy, or total amount to be raised by taxes in all funds and special districts, would go up from $23.16 million to $24.22 million, an increase of 4.58 percent over this year.
General fund and highway tax rates would rise as well. Residents in the villages of Hamburg and Blasdell would pay $4.33 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, an increase of 19 cents, or 4.66 percent. Those living outside the villages would pay $9.63 per $1,000, up 44 cents, or 4.89 percent.
In his budget message, Walters notes that taxes have remained stable for most of the last six years, and the average annual increase has been 1.05 percent over his tenure as supervisor. The average inflation rate over the same period is nearly 2.5 percent. He also noted that the 2013 proposal is actually less than the $43.1 million 2007 budget.
Walters included no increase in salaries for elected officials and said the board will look at salaries for department heads. He said if the town does not keep department heads’ salaries competitive, it could be difficult to find qualified managers.
One of the changes included in the budget was the creation of “enterprise funds” for the Town Park, ice arena and Woodlawn Beach State Park. The funds list revenues and expenditures for each of the enterprises separately, although all are included in the budget totals. The separate funds make it easier to see what the expenses and revenues for the venues are. In the case of the ice arena, the fund covers just the arena, not the entire Lakeview Road Recreation area.
The town has had an enterprise fund for the golf course for many years.
The budget lists a transfer of $235,506 in general fund money to the Town Park fund to cover expenses, $87,085 from the general fund to cover the ice arena expenses and $63,215 from the general fund to cover expenses at Woodlawn.
The board’s next meeting is Monday, but Walters said he expects just a cursory discussion on the budget. He said he believes the board will schedule additional budget meetings separate from regular meetings.
The budget hearing is expected to be scheduled for Oct. 22, allowing the board to conduct a couple of meetings and perhaps come up with some changes on the budget before the hearing. There’s also plenty of time after the hearing to conduct additional meetings, if needed, before the budget must be adopted Nov. 20.
Last year, board members tied on the budget vote, and the proposal the supervisor presented became the budget by default.