Potsdam looking at future finances with cautious eye as 2021 budget wraps up
BY ADAM ATKINSON
North Country This Week
POTSDAM -- With the 2021 budget work complete, the town of Potsdam is looking at future fiscal figuring with a cautious eye.
Town officials struggled for several months with declining revenues and other financial challenges brought on by the pandemic and were able to bring a budget to the table for 2021 that features a slight decrease in the tax rate for those living outside the village, said Town Supervisor Ann Carvill in a conversation with North Country This Week. A story published previously in North Country This Week was not clear about the town’s tax rate for 2021 and the newspaper apologizes for the lack of explanation.To further clarify, the tax levy to cover the general fund, highway fund and town outside budgets are going to be $435.90 per $100,000 of assessed property value, compared to $439.80 in 2020. That equates to $4.359 per $1,000 of assessed value for the coming year versus $4.398 per $1,000 in 2020.
That $4.359 tax rate for 2021 is comprised of: combined general and highway fund DA tax rate of $3.05 per $1,000 (compared to $3.01 in 2020); town outside rate of $0.37 in 2021 (from $0.44 in 2020); and town fire district budget rate of $0.939 in 2021 (versus $0.948 in 2020).
Town tax rates for village of Potsdam residents is $3.98 per $1,000 compared to $3.95 in 2020. Special district tax rates, which effect only a small number of town residents who live within the districts are as follows:
• Hewittville Light, 61 parcels, $0.666 per $1,000 in 2021 compared to $0.719 in 2020;
• Sissonville Light, 29 parcels, stays static from the current year to 2021 at $0.584 per $1,000;
• Unionville Sewer, 39 parcels, $7.21 per $1,000 compared to $6.44 in 2020;
• Unionville Water, 40 parcels, $7.27 per $1,000 compared to $9.02 in 2020.
As noted previously in the earlier article, the town was cleared by an auditor to bring its fund balance to bear on the overall budget to keep the tax rate lower. And they were able to use $140,000 and still have enough fund balance left to deal adequately with unexpected expenses. Carvill said however, that in the future the municipality will be “very cautious” about using the fund balance.
The 2021 budget features total appropriations of $4,147,713.03, which will pull $2,202.379.25 in taxes from town residents to help cover the expenses. That total levy number for 2021 includes the levy for the town’s special lighting, water and sewer districts which are drawn from the district residents only.
The 2020 total levy was $2,190,575.78 according to the budget document found on the town website.
Visit file:///Users/Nctw5/Downloads/2021%20PRELIMINARY%20BUDGET.pdf to view a copy of the budget, with information on each of the individual districts and budget categories, or to download a copy.
Next year’s budget is expected to bring some trepidation to the accounting problem of municipal budgets for many local governments in light of the governor’s pandemic shutdown. Drops in expected sales tax revenues from the pandemic and massive spikes in state-level debt coupled the continuation of unfunded state mandates to municipalities are expected to create uncertainty for many and the town of Potsdam is no exception.
“It’s a guessing game because we are in the midst of a pandemic,” Carvill said. “I think every town is nervous with what the next year will bring.”
“We will be finding out in real time,” she said.
The supervisor said, however, that even with the challenges, the town is hopeful about several economic developments underway which could raise the tax base, including the expansion of LC Drives, the potential of a new industrial park north of the village, and the possibility of solar developments which were paused during the pandemic this year.
Carvill said the town’s position in a state economic opportunity zone gives an advantage.
“That is a great benefit to us,” she said. “That makes me feel optimistic.”
The supervisor said however, that “the worse case scenario always looms.”
“With the changing to the Biden administration, I want to be a little hopeful,” she said. “We hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”
(It should be noted, that at the time of this writing, Joe Biden had been declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election by major media outlets, but the election results had not been officially certified by the states. Numerous lawsuits regarding the election results were underway and in a few cases, automatic recounts were being launched due to the razor thin margins between the candidates in certain cases.)