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Jay budget options: extend ambulance, or make tax cap

November 15, 2012

JAY - he town of Jay faces two options as it prepares to enact its 2013 budget: Exceed the tax cap and provide residents with round-the-clock ambulance coverage, or stay under and go without.

Town Supervisor Randy Douglas told the News last week that his board will discuss two budget options at a public hearing and special meeting that was scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 14. The first is a proposed budget that would increase the tax levy by 4.82 percent by contributing about $54,600 more to the AuSable Forks Ambulance Squad. That increase, Douglas said, would allow the ambulance squad to provide coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Without the increase to the ambulance service, the town's tax levy would increase by just 1.53 percent, meeting the state's new 2 percent property tax cap. Under the higher budget option, the total amount to be raised by taxes would be $1,965,464. The lower option would set the tax levy at $1,911,782. The town board will meet at 6 p.m. today to authorize a tax cap override in case it goes with the higher of the two budget options.

The total proposed increase for the ambulance contract is $85,351. The town of Jay would pay for about $54,600 of that, with the rest coming from the town of Black Brook.

Douglas said that at a joint meeting of the Jay and Black Brook town boards last month, the ambulance contract was discussed, and many of the 35 or so residents in attendance expressed support for increased coverage. But Douglas added that in his town of more than 2,500 people, he wants to hear from more taxpayers before the board makes a decision on the budget.

"It's not really a true sense of what people want," Douglas said of the October meeting.

Douglas said his town has averaged less than a 2 percent tax levy increase in each of the last nine budgets. He said he's not sure which version of the budget he prefers.

"I do have some people saying, 'No, I don't want to go the 4 percent. I don't want to do that. The governor has a 2 percent tax cap out there; stay within it,'" Douglas said. "Then I have others saying, 'I'll pay whatever it takes.'"

By his own calculations, Douglas estimated each taxpayer would add an extra $21 for 24-7 ambulance coverage.

"Is $21 too much to ask for when you're guaranteed coverage when it's your family member that's in trouble in a time of need?" he said. "These are the things we're weighing. ... It's unfortunate that we're in such a fiscal crisis all over the country that we have to make these tough decisions. It's very frustrating; it's heart-wrenching."

The town's budget is spread across three water districts, the AuSable Forks Sewer District, the ambulance service, the general fund, the highway fund and two libraries.

Douglas said the town's budget, with or without the increase for the ambulance service, is "very frugal and financially sound." The budget includes raises for town workers - the first in three years, Douglas said.

Douglas noted that the town's retirement premium for 2013 is projected to be about $115,791 - up from about $49,372 in 2007. That would be an increase of 134 percent in five years, he said.

"New York state made unwise decisions when they relinquished the 3 percent employee contribution after 10 years of service, as well as unwise decisions investing employee stocks in unstable funds," Douglas said in a press release announcing the proposed budget.

The town's health insurance rates are expected to rise by more than 10 percent in 2013, Douglas said.

Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or cmorris@



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