Protect Taxpayers or Protect Fund Balance? A Question for Town of Busti Voters

Property taxes in the Town of Busti from 2012 to 2019 have shot up over 70%, more than 6% per year on average. A major reason for the large Town property tax increases over the past seven years has been the management of the Town’s Unappropriated Fund Balance often referred to as “rainy day funds.” It appears the Supervisor and most Town Board members feel protecting the Fund Balance is more important than protecting Town of Busti taxpayers from high property taxes.

Fund Balance as a percent of the budget

Property taxes in the Town of Busti* from 2012 to 2019 have shot up over 70%, from $695,673 to $1,193,318, more than 6% per year on average. Meanwhile, Appropriations in the same period climbed 22%, from $2,499,683 to $3,052,541, or 3% per year on average. The large tax increases were far over the 2% tax cap most years and fell on all Town taxpayers, but the heaviest burden landed on those outside the Village.

Only in 2017 did Town taxpayers not face higher Town property taxes when Councilman Mueller’s budget amendments in late 2016 passed the Town Board and delivered no overall Town tax increase. Since that time Councilman Mueller opposed the 2018 and 2019 budgets because they raised property taxes, directly or indirectly**, over the tax cap.

A major reason for large Town property tax increases over the past seven years has been the management of the Town’s Unappropriated Fund Balance (FB) in the major budget lines (A-B-DA-DB) often referred to as “rainy day funds.” In late 2012, FB totaled $749,169 and the by year end 2018, climbed to $837,257, an $88,000 increase. While the Town Supervisor was busy raising property taxes, the Town’s FB relative to Appropriations (FB/App) climbed to 27% by late 2018. (For comparison, other local governments had much less in FB/App: the Village of Lakewood with 5% and the local school district, SWCS, with 4.3%.)

Even more worrisome for Town taxpayers was the recent Board meeting on August 5th when the Supervisor and Town Councilmen (except Mueller) passed a FB policy that raised future total FB goals to $1.2 million, nearly equal to the 2019 Total Town tax levy! If this policy is followed, even if enacted over many years, it will cause Town of Busti taxpayers to contribute another $350,000 in “rainy day” funds, another huge future property tax burden.

It appears the Supervisor and most Town Board members feel protecting Fund Balance is more important than protecting Town of Busti taxpayers from high property taxes.

* The Town provided support to the two local libraries until the 259 proposal passed in 2018. To reduce confusion on library funding and tax implications, past library support was eliminated from these budget explanations.
** Library 259 produced $144,000 tax levy across the entire Town of Busti on the SWCS tax bill.