Zero percent Town Tax Levy increase for the 2014 Town budget.

Post Star Newspaper 10/29/13

Hartford supervisor lauds conservative budget

• BILL TOSCANO — btoscano@poststar.com

HARTFORD — The way Dana Haff looks at it, town residents should receive part of the credit for the 2014 budget coming in with no tax rate increase.

“I almost think the story of Hartford volunteerism to assist its local government is a story all to itself,” said Haff, the town supervisor, in summarizing the $1.27 million budget the Town Board passed earlier this month. “The people of the town are the ones who allowed us to do this.”

One example Haff used was the building of a 24-by-40-foot highway salt storage barn that will hold 300 tons of salt.

“The point is, $28,000 was allocated for this capital project, but by building it on weekends using all volunteers, it was constructed for half that money,” Haff said.

Other areas in which the town was able to get volunteers to help on projects included the new youth athletic fields behind Hartford Central School and some flood-prevention work near the youth fields in front of the school.

In addition, Haff said, the Town Board feels strongly it needs to be fiscally conservative.

“We don’t believe in that old adage that you have to spend it all this year to get it again next year,” he said, “By being frugal and not spending all the monies budgeted for this year, we were able to roll over leftover funds into the fund balance and reallocate it into 2014.”

The budget calls for about $259,383 in revenue and draws $124,854 from the fund balance. The amount to be raised by taxes is $884,576. The numbers are similar to last year’s, with the total appropriation up $16,960 and revenue up $12,192. The town used $2,947 more from the fund balance than last year, and the amount to be raised by taxes is up $1,821.

One other budget area Haff was pleased with was the fire department and EMS contracts.

The town lengthened the contracts to five years so it would know what the increases would be going forward. In the past, the fire contract was three years, and the contract with Argyle EMS was renewed annually.

“This increase in length gives the town more budget stability because it lengthens our distance to the horizon, as we now know what our outlays will be for the next five years,” he said, noting the maximum term allowed by law is five years.

The fire department and the Town Board agreed to a 1.3 percent spending increase each year over the five years of the contract.

“A five-year agreement with large increases is bad because you are locked in, but this agreement at 1.3 percent is very conservative,” Haff said. “This would not have worked if the fire department members were not a fiscally conservative lot as well.”