By CRAIG FREILICH
POTSDAM – The Village of Potsdam begins work this week on trimming a budget plan that stands at $5.93 million, which would raise property taxes by two and a half percent.
“We hope to whittle that down before we propose a budget” to be voted on by the village trustees, said Mayor Steve Yurgartis.
He said that copies of the draft budget went out to trustees last week, and that department heads were to begin meeting today to discuss where they can cut expenses or increases revenues.
Finding where to cut will be complicated by contracted expenses such as retiree benefits and health insurance, which together make up more than a quarter of the plan they will be working on.
Retiree benefits are up 13.6 percent to $680,000 and health insurance is up 12.7 percent to $920,000, according to the mayor.
The $1.6 million for those items amounts to nearly 27 percent of the total general fund budget.
“At that rate of rise, it makes it very difficult to hold the total increase in costs down to a reasonable number,” he said.
“So far we’ve not included recreation changes,” Yurgartis said, referring to the village board’s vote last week to pull out of funding for the town-wide recreation program, which had been funded jointly by the town and village, splitting the roughly $320,000 annual cost.
The village will continue funding the program through the end of 2013, but will cease after that, “so it will be about seven-twelfths jointly funded this calendar year. After that, the whole thing will be funded by the town.”
The village’s fiscal year runs from June 1 to May 31.
“When the reduction in the recreation budget is calculated, the five-twelfths saved will result in about a 1.5 percent decrease in the budget.
“All that would go directly to a reduction in tax bills, presuming I can convince the board to do that.”
On that score, to compensate for a presumed shift of recreation funding to the town budget, “village residents will see their town tax go up, but the net change will be zero,” Yurgartis said.