ALEXANDRIA BAY — The village Board of Trustees voted to pass the 2021-22 budget Wednesday night, enacting a 33-cent tax hike.
Village property owners will see a tax rate of $10.47 per $1,000 of assessed property value, meaning a $100,000 property will see a village tax bill of $1,047. That’s higher than last year’s rate of $10.14 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The new tax rate will generate about $1,105,800 in overall revenue for the village to support its $2,121,765 general fund. The village will also draw on $261,319 in fund balance, which is unspent money from previous budgets. That will leave the village with $2,077,856 in fund balance going forward.
To enact this budget, the village board had to vote to override the property tax cap — a state law that restricts the amount a local government can raise property taxes by each year to 2% or the current inflation rate, whichever is lower. This year, village taxes are over the tax cap by $23,000. Last year, they were more than $48,000 higher than the tax cap.
Mayor Steven A. Jarvis said that despite the tax cap override, the village board worked to ensure village residents aren’t overburdened by taxes.
“We’re trying to be a sound body for the taxpayers, do it correctly,” he said. “We could blow (the tax rate) up if we really wanted to, but what purpose would that serve?”
This year, the village expects to take in about $345,000 in sales tax revenue, the same as was budgeted last year. That’s lower than what was budgeted for 2019, which Mayor Jarvis said is a symptom of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
He said last year, the village was prepared to take in about half of that total in sales tax revenue because of warnings that tourism, consumer spending and economic activity would all be severely depressed because of the pandemic. But that didn’t happen, and Mayor Jarvis said the village was pleasantly surprised to see sales tax income came in as planned.
“We made out very well, we took in probably about $10,000 more than what we planned for,” he said.
A few revenue lines had their totals cut this year to reflect the ongoing effects of the pandemic. Expected income from docking and parking fees, as well as use fees for the municipal golf course, were all reduced by thousands of dollars each this year.
“We’re hoping to have a better season, but in working with our consultant and advisor, we decided it was better to go light and hope that we get more and have a good tourism season,” Mayor Jarvis said.
The budget calls for about $95,900 in state aid from all sources, down from $108,237 last year. Across New York state, local governments prepared last year for steep budget cuts as the state warned of 20% cuts to state aid payments. Those largely didn’t happen, but Mayor Jarvis said Alexandria Bay is still cautious.
“Grab a coin and flip it, that’s the best way to tell right now if we’ll get the expected state aid,” he said. “So we’ve planned conservatively.”
For expenses, the budget calls for cuts to some, but not all, departments. The village parks department, clerk’s office, police department, trash collection service and street cleaners have all had a few thousand dollars cut from last year. Mayor Jarvis said those cuts were done to ensure the village budget stays balanced, but were kept to a minimum to lessen the impact on service quality.
For the clerk’s office, for example, the mayor said there are a number of pieces of equipment that could use upgrades or replacement, but the board really pushed for each department to only replace what was necessary to maintain operations.
For the police department, the mayor said the village isn’t anticipating they will need as many officers on duty in the summer as they usually would, as large events that require a police presence are still unlikely to happen. They also decided to forgo purchasing a new police car this year.
Overall, Mayor Jarvis said he thinks this year’s budget represents a balanced, conservative accounting that balances the needs of the village with the reality that this year’s budget could be impacted significantly by the lingering effects of COVID-19.
“We really tried to be careful to get what we really need to accomplish in this budget, and prepare for the next few years,” he said.