Pin It
Lansing, NY

Next Wednesday the Town of Lansing will hold a public hearing on the proposed 2017 $4,980,899 budget.  Town Supervisor says that despite exceeding the tax levy cap imposed by the State, property taxpayers will actually pay about five and a half cents per thousand dollars of assessed value less than they payed last year.  LaVigne says Town finances are healthy, and new fiscal policies will keep the Town on track to keep it healthy.

"Is it business as usual?  No, on the contrary," he says.  "We're going in an entirely different direction because we're getting clarity as far as where each expense goes from each fund.  We have tremendous flexibility in case there is a crisis, and it's healthy."

LaVigne says the new fund balance and reserve policies, Lansing's traditional conservative budget projections, and more than expected revenue from sources such as mortgage taxes mean Town finances will remain healthy.  Additionally town departments are implementing capital replacement plans that will coincide with budget reserves to insure Lansing can continue to provide the expected level of services.

The bottom line for taxpayers is that the tax rate is projected at $1.4916 per $1,000 of assessed value, down almost six cents from $1.4362 last year.  While next year's total budget is $4.98 million (this does not count special districts such as sewer, water, drainage, or lighting, which will cost an additional $1,422.070 next year, but paid for only by people in those districts), the part paid for by property taxpayers will be $1,894,758.41.  That is the number the tax cap refers to.

Most New York taxing authorities vote themselves the power to exceed what was originally called the 2% tax cap, and Lansing is no exception.  That '2% is a misnomer - for the first two years is was more than 2%.  But this year's calculation allows the town only a 0.12% increase in the levy.  Since special districts are included in the calculation LaVigne says the Town had to exceed the levy.

"We'll exceed that slightly," he says.  "You have to take into account the special districts when you talk about the levy.  That's going to bump it up over the tax cap this year.  Otherwise the levy would only be increased by $11,000."

By applying $215,000 of unexpended funds to the budget, officials brought the projected tax rate down that almost six cents from last year.  When this year's budget was formed $284,000 in unexpended fund balance was applied.  Essentially that means that Lansing is spending less this year in order to tax property owners less.

The new policies passed by the Town Board earlier this year will inject formal planning and saving into the budget process.  The Highway Department has implemented a 14 year replacement cycle for the big trucks it uses for plowing and road construction.  Meanwhile reserves will be maintained to paid the expected $200,00 per truck when they are needed.  Likewise a capital technology replacement plan will insure the Town is prepared to upgrade its equipment as needed to the future.  This year the server used in the Town Hall was replaced.

"Our server was approximately 12 years old and it was critical that we replace it this year, because it was vulnerable to hackers," LaVigne says.  "We brought in a consultant, and he gave us estimates.  With the Board's approval we implemented that new server.  My understanding is it is a three to five year $20,000 allocation."

LaVigne says he has asked the Parks and Recreation Department to develop a 5 year capital improvement plan for the parks.  At the same time he asked Parks and Rec to conduct a feasibility study on what nearby businesses charge for similar services provided in Myers Park, including campsite and pavilion rental, boat slips in the marina, and the entry fee for non-residents.  LaVigne says prices will go up next year for all these services.

"I said, don't gouge them, but we have to nudge our prices up a bit." LaVigne says.  "If you have a five star restaurant you don't charge inexpensive prices.  If there is any money left over I will urge it be used for park improvements.  So the people us use the park will actually pay for the improvements."

As of last year Lansing had about $1.3 million of allocated funds, the equivalent of a checking account that could be used to pay for emergencies or budgeted purchases.  The New York State Comptroller's office recommends that the equivalent of three months of a municipality's operating expenses be kept free, and the rest either placed in reserves or to guide things like tax reduction.  Lansing's new Fund Balance and Reserves policies will guide to Board as it manages this money. 

LaVigne says that the financial prospect for Lansing is positive right now.  But a fiscally conservative board was uncomfortable with only keeping three months of operating expenses free, especially in light of uncertainties like recent flooding and the unknown future of the Cayuga Power Plant.  The Board voted to designate the equivalent of six months worth of operating expenses in it's Fund Balance Policy, and the remainder of the money will be funneled into reserves according to the new Reserve Policy.  Even so, income like the mortgage performs better than expected, the unexpended fund balance simply grows.

"Right now it looks good," LaVigne says.  "We track it every month and see what was used as opposed to what was projected.  These trends are very healthy.  If you are looking at a six month fund balance policy... even if you look at only three months of that you're still looking at $1.15 million dollars."

Wednesday's budget hearing is at 6:30 at the Lansing Town Hall.  After the hearing the Town Board is expected to approve it.

Pin It