Even with budgetary increases, the Hamburg Town Board believes that its 2013 fiscal spending plan represents successful financial planning in the face of tough financial challenges.
The $42.2 million appropriations plan is slightly more than the tentative $41.9 million plan released earlier this month. However, as town financial consultant Wayne Drescher was quick to point out during the town’s budget hearing on Monday, Oct. 22, this was still $1 million less than the town’s 2007 budget, the highest in recent years. Many of these cost savings were created by increasing cost efficiency within the town’s water districts, and the budget has risen since most of these savings were realized in 2008. The total tax levy to be made up by residents is about $24 million.
Losses in video lottery terminal revenue and increases in required payments to New York State retirement pension fund were blamed for much of the added costs. Drescher stated that, although the town should receive $2.1 million as 3.5 percent of the earnings on all winnings from the Hamburg Casino at the Fairgrounds, it will instead earn around $557,000 due to state budget cuts. New York State retirement costs have also tripled since 2008.
The 2013 budget accounts for $3,551,000 in pension payments, a cost both Drescher and Town Supervisor Steven Walters maintained is out of the town’s control. With the proper casino income and without any pension payments, the Town of Hamburg could reduce the tax levy by at least 15 percent for both village and town residents, according to the current spending plan. Interest income from town investments is also at a major low, down more than $300,000 since 2005 for a total of $115,000.
The current budget plans, which must be approved by Nov. 20, tax town residents at $9.54 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation; village residents are taxed at $4.31 per $1,000 valuation. The new budget also creates new enterprise funds for the Hamburg Ice Arena, Hamburg Town Park and Woodlawn Beach State Park, which the town says will make it easier to track revenues and costs from each of those entities.
In other business, the board:
• Held a public hearing on proposed changes to town fire protection contracts. Of the town’s eight fire departments, seven increased their requested contract by $1,000 to $9,000 over their 2012 budgets.
Newton Abbott Volunteer Fire was the only company that didn’t request an increase, as its budget will remain steady at $432,090 per year. The largest increase was requested by Big Tree Volunteer Fire, as its request of $456,064 is $8,942 larger than its 2012 contract of $447,122.