By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- The 2013 budget was unanimously adopted Wednesday without a controversial highway tax proposed last month.
"I'm overwhelmed there is no tax in this budget," said Councilman Bart Tessiero. "We have to tighten our belts and live within a budget, like everyone does in their own homes. I think the residents are pleased, because they're living on fixed incomes. Even small increases add up, and people are suffering."
"I'm very happy we were able to adopt the budget without it," said Councilman Kenneth Krutz. "I'm glad we were able to look at areas to reduce, and we fought hard to avoid the tax."
Krutz said he's hoping retail growth on Route 30 will provide additional sales tax benefits to help cushion the town's revenue, a topic that former Supervisor Bill Gzryb focused on in his criticism of the highway tax proposal during the budget's public hearing.
"The figures don't add up," he said, questioning why the town needs a highway tax if sales tax revenues continue to exceed what's budgeted.
Town Supervisor Thomas DiMezza said exponential increases for the state retirement system contributions, and every day business costs continue to increase dramatically, however.
"The fund balance is so low we can't even purchase equipment, and repair costs are exorbitant," DiMezza said.
Councilman Alex Kuchis said he wasn't sure how much the town should rely on sales tax revenue to balance the budget.
"I'm fearful the revenue levels can't be met," Councilman Alex Kuchis said. "I believe they're attainable, but I don't know what Congress will do that might plunge us back into a recession."
The $4 million budget has little wiggle room, particularly the highway fund, which has no money in its fund balance. It has a $43,800 increase compared to the current budget, which DiMezza said he was able to cover by shifting expenditures to the sewer budget.
He said some of the highway department's upcoming projects includes some sewer infiltration work, and said some other town employees' salaries might also shift to that account.
"They're administering the sewer budget as well, and shifting those accounts is the only way it's going to work," DiMezza said.
When asked how much longer town residents could expect to go before a tax is implemented, DiMezza said, "You can only kick the bucket so far before the bucket breaks."
"I can definitively say one year," Kuchis said. "Beyond that, it's a question mark."
Other than a $10,000 reduction in the town's contribution to the Amsterdam Free Library, there aren't any major differences in the spending plan compared to last year.
"There aren't any heavy reductions," Krutz said. "There are small reductions made in little areas."
Some of the town's fire department budgets show small increases -- $5,000 increases for Cranesville and Fort Johnson, less than $1,000 for Hagaman, and no increase for Tribes Hill. No one spoke about the departments' plans during their scheduled public hearings.