By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — Based on a preliminary town budget, the average household in Niskayuna will see a total town property tax increase of less than $10 after a state rebate.
The New York State Real Property Tax Cap requires local governments to limit tax levy increases to either two percent or the rate of inflation. If they do, homeowners automatically receive rebate checks.
The Office of the State Comptroller calculates the yearly limit, which came to $298,610 for 2015. The tentative town budget has this year’s increase just a hair below that ceiling, at $298,152.
In total, the town’s tax levy this year will be $11,850,069, up from $11,551,917 last year.
Based on an average Niskayuna home, assessed at just under $275,000, taxes are likely to increase $26 across town. However, in Sewer District 1, which comprises most properties west of Balltown Road, residents will find checks for about $18 in their mailboxes. In Sewer District 2, generally east of Balltown Road, rebates will be just over $16.
These may not seem like revolutionary payments, but they mean the tax increase this year will be less than the price of lunch: about $8.14 in Sewer District 1 and $9.79 in Sewer District 2.
Town Supervisor Joe Landry said staying under the tax cap is never easy. This year, mortgage tax revenue slipped $100,000, while contractual salary increases for employees totaled $154,100. No changes in staffing were made.
“If you start out with the big decision that your goal is to stay under the tax cap, then you have to make other smaller decisions in each individual budget,” he said. “It’s not an easy decision. Of course we’d like to provide more money in certain programs, but you just have to be very fiscally responsible.”
In addition to meeting the state’s requirements, Landry said one of his goals is to make sure reserve funds are available in case of emergencies. Earlier this year, he was reminded of the importance of those reserve funds when a July 2 flood overwhelmed the Valerie Drive pump station in the southeast part of town. Repairs cost the town about $25,000, not including overtime pay for the employees who worked all night after the flood.
Thanks to ample contingency funds, the flood was “not a big deal” for the town, Landry said at the time. He hopes to keep it that way.
“We have been taking great care to try to monitor our budgeting and try to build the reserve fund so that we don’t have an issue if we have problems in the future,” he said. “We have enough revenue to cover the emergencies [like] we’ve had at the Valerie Drive pump station.”
Reserve funds also help keep the town’s bond rating high, making it easier and cheaper to borrow money for future projects.
The town will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, in Town Hall. A meeting to adopt the budget will follow two weeks later, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20.