North Elba’s 2024 budget is below state tax cap

Spending to decline by more than $1M

LAKE PLACID — The North Elba Town Council adopted the town’s 2024 budget as proposed Thursday, Nov. 9.

The town’s $10.6 million budget falls below the state-imposed tax cap of 2.64%. A total of $5,018,636 will be collected, or levied, from taxpayers to fund its 2024 budget, according to town Budget Officer Catherine Edman. This is 2.57% more than this year’s $4,889,585 tax levy and came in just $22 under the state tax cap. The town’s budgets have either fallen below, or met, the tax cap since it was first imposed by the state in 2012.

Including the relevy of unpaid water bills in Ray Brook, the total tax levy will be $5,023,060, Edman said. This total will change again at the county level when the unpaid water and sewer bills from the village of Saranac Lake and the village of Lake Placid are relevied.

The town’s overall spending is expected to decrease by more than $1 million next year, from $11,883,891 in 2023 to $10,636,692 in 2024. The town plans to use its more than $4.1 million tax levy, more than $5.2 million in estimated revenue and more than $1.1 million from reserves to pay for its expenses.

General fund

The town of North Elba has different funds that fund different parts of town government and town services. Depending on where a resident lives, they may pay additional taxes. The North Elba Park District, the Ray Brook water district and the highway district are funded by select parts of North Elba. Residents who live outside of the village of Saranac Lake pay taxes to the park district; residents in the town outside of the villages of Saranac Lake and Lake Placid pay taxes for the highway fund; and the water district is funded by Ray Brook residents and anyone else who lives within the bounds of the water district.

Every taxpayer in the town of North Elba pays for general fund operations.

The 2024 budget estimates $3,974,594 in general fund spending — for things such as town employee salaries and supplies — in 2024, a 6.6% increase from $3,728,672 for this year. This will be funded through a more than $1.3 million tax levy, $2.15 million in estimated revenue and $449,106 from town reserves, according to budget documents.

The $1,375,272 collected from taxpayers will be 17% more than the current fiscal year, when $1,168,894 was collected from taxpayers for general fund operations.

The general fund tax rate will increase from 44 to 45 cents per $1,000 in assessed value, still down from earlier rates of 50 cents in 2022 and 63 cents in 2021.

A person with a $300,000 home in North Elba would pay about $135 toward general fund operations next year. This year, that number was $132. This estimate doesn’t include water, sewer, fire protection or park district taxes.

Property assessments in North Elba have continued to increase, this year by around 15%. Last year, the town’s total taxable value for the general fund was more than $2.6 billion. This year, the total taxable value for the general fund was closer to $3.08 billion — an increase of around $487 million.

North Elba Park District

There will be a $1,401,913 levy for North Elba Park District costs, down 13.6% from last year’s $1,622,576 levy.

The park district tax rate will decrease from 63 cents per $1,000 in assessed value to 47 cents, a 25% decrease. This means a person with a $300,000 home in North Elba would pay about $141 toward park district operations next year, down from $189 this year.

Other funds

Depending on where residents live, there may be additional tax decreases ranging from around 5% to around 12%, related to fire protection districts or highway services. However, the Ray Brook water tax rate is expected to increase 21.7%, from 92 cents per $1,000 in assessed value to $1.12.

Expenses for general and highway operations outside of the villages of Lake Placid and Saranac Lake are expected to increase by a combined $368,422. Additionally, the budget allocates $320,000 for repairs to the exterior of the North Elba Town Hall and $122,049 for purchasing equipment.

It also includes a combined more than $1.1 million for improvements at the Lake Placid Airport — installing an automated weather observing system, paving the runway and installing signage and lighting for the runway. According to a budget summary, the town receives 90% of the total cost for these projects from the Federal Aviation Administration and 5% from the state government. The town contributes the remaining 5% from the Park District budget; that 5% comes out to about $58,793.

The budget also gave elected town officials a pay raise. Town council members will be paid about $9,499 for their work next year, up from this year’s salary of about $9,134. Highway Superintendent Kenneth Porter will be paid about $77,238 next year, up from this year’s salary of about $72,238. Town Clerk Laurie Dudley will be paid about $59,805 next year, up from this year’s salary of $57,512.

Supervisor Derek Doty saw a pay increase from around $40,695 this year to $45,000 for next year. This is in addition to his salary from Essex County, which also saw a bump earlier this year when the Board of Supervisors voted to give themselves a raise from $21,432 to $28,000.

A public hearing on the town’s preliminary 2024 budget was held Thursday at 5:15 p.m., just before the start of the council’s regular meeting. Two other public hearings were scheduled that evening before the meeting: one on Benefit Water and Benefit Sewer Districts, and another on a tax exemption for seniors. All of those items were subsequently approved by the town council, and there was no public comment.

Council members Richard Cummings and Richard Preston were not present for the vote. Cummings joined the meeting virtually but was unable to vote, while Preston was absent.

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