HALFMOON, N.Y. — Despite a novel coronavirus pandemic and an economic shutdown, tentative budgets for the towns of Clifton Park and Halfmoon reveal both towns will continue their long-standing policies next year of having no town property taxes paying for town government.
However, the two towns do have Highway Fund taxes to help pay for road maintenance and both town administrations have promised to practice fiscal restraint in the face of tight revenue sources.
With no property taxes to fund governmental administration the functions of government for both are paid for, in large part, with each town’s share of county sales tax. With an expected decrease in sales tax revenue for the coming year in Halfmoon and an expected small increase to the revenue stream in Clifton Park, the two towns are tightening their budgetary belts for 2021 and reducing expenditures from their general and highway funds.
In Halfmoon, the $6.54 million estimated county sales tax next is a reduction of $602,161 from this year's total. Consequently, the budget, which includes the General Fund and Highway Fund, will reduce expenditures by $683,728.
The town also plans to budget in $100,000 from its appropriated fund balance. Last year the town used $91,404 from the same fund to balance the budget. The use of the fund balance money is viewed by the town administration as a numerical necessity only as everything will be done to see that it remains untouched.
As an example, Halfmoon has had a spending freeze in place for more than a year.
To balance the highway budget the town will increase the total amount derived from the highway tax to $1,776,040; an increase of $186,640 from the present budget.
“While the fund balance of $100,000 is being used, we do not expect that it will ever need to be used due to the conservative fiscal budgeting processes we have used,” Halfmoon Supervisor Kevin Tollisen said in an email. “We used realistic budget figures that factor in statistical data showing COVID-19 effects will continue into next year.”
Tollisen added that the tentative budget includes raises for town employees as per the town’s five-year plan.
“Overall, because of the spending freeze I imposed across all town budgets and the hard work of the department managers and staff, the town’s financial positon remains strong and our reserves are very healthy,” he said. “With continued fiscal restraint, we will continue to provide essential services to town residents and will remain financially strong.”
The situation is much the same in Clifton Park. The budget for the General Fund in Clifton Park totals $18,081,131, a decrease of $177,691 in spending from the 2020 adopted budget.
The Highway Fund budget proposed for 2021 is $5,747,003, a decrease of one percent or $59,840 from the 2020 adopted Highway Fund budget. Next year’s Highway Fund tax is to remain flat at 30.82 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
According to figures provided by the town, a home valued at $259,000, the total 2021 highway tax will total $41.
On the revenue side, the town noted in its tentative budget an expected reduction of $464,000 in 2020 county sales tax revenue from its adopted 2020 budget. Using the reconfigured total sales tax revenue as a baseline, the town has budgeted $12,621,442 in county sales tax for next year, an expected increase of $121,442 from the reconfigured 2020 estimate.
The town’s tentative budget includes additional money for paving ensuring that the total allocated for this segment of town operations is just shy of $1.1 million. The budget includes funding to allow the town to continue its practice of investing in vehicles and equipment annually.
Other areas of the budget with significant spending levels are healthcare, equipment, vehicles, and recreational venue upgrades.
Both Clifton Park and Halfmoon surprisingly show they have continued to maintain overall cost control for the health benefits that cover town employees. This expense line is flat for these benefits in both towns when compared to 2020.
In a statement released with the budget, Barrett said the year has been an extremely challenging one for operations and revenues for private and public organizations like town government and that his administration continues to analyze all operations for areas of opportunity that will lead to increased efficiency and expense reductions.
Though the town’s tax base has now surpassed $5.3 billion, he noted that such solid financial standing can turn in a negative direction quickly. Growing the commercial tax base through redevelopment projects and conservative budgeting practices has placed the town in a position to navigate difficult economic conditions such as these and provide stability, he added.
“We have experienced other difficult economic periods of time over the last twenty years,” Barrett said. “Through these difficult circumstances and the challenges posed in 2020, the Town of Clifton Park continues to maintain a strong fiscal position.”