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Lake George Village Adopts Budget as Costs of Coronavirus Loom

Lake George Village Adopts Budget as Costs of Coronavirus Loom April 7, 2020
Aerial view of Lake George Village courtesy of Crown Focus Media.

Utilizing surplus funds from 2019-2020, Lake George Village officials hope to cover deficits that may be traced, directly or indirectly, to the novel coronavirus.  

According to Mayor Bob Blais, the Village’s 2020-2021 budget will more accurately reflect the true costs of coronavirus, as occupancy and sales tax receipts and parking revenues shrink in the wake of fewer visitors in 2020. 

Nevertheless, some programs scheduled for this summer may be reduced or eliminated if revenues fall more precipitously than anticipated, said Blais.

“We’ll know later this spring if events planned for June and beyond, from which we typically earn revenues from fees of various kinds, are cancelled or postponed,” said Blais. “With that information, we’ll adapt and adjust as best we can.” 

Americade, for instance, generates roughly $40,000 in parking passes, Blais said.

Organizers of the motorcycle rally are considering postponing or cancelling the event, said Blais. 

In a typical year, Lake George Village earns $790,000 to $800,000 in parking revenues alone. 

Those funds are among the pillars of Lake George Village’s $6.5 million 2020-2021 municipal budget, which the Board of Trustees adopted unanimously by way of a conference call on April 6.

With state funding for Lake George Village’s new wastewater treatment plant assured, the budget that falls within the 2% state-mandated tax cap, Mayor Blais announced. 

As adopted by the Village’s Board of Trustees, the budget increases taxes 14 cents, from $6.29 to $6.43 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation. 

“That happens to be one of the largest increases in the last six years,” said Blais. 

Blais said the average homeowner’s taxes would increase by $35 per year. 

The $6.5 million budget is based on roughly $700,000 more in appropriations than last year. The amount to be raised by taxes is $1.5 million, slightly more than last year.

Blais said new expenses include $223,000 per year to service the debt for the wastewater treatment plant.   

Village taxpayers’ share of the costs of the plant, however, is significantly lower than it would have been had New York State not awarded the municipality $9.4 million in January.

Lake George Village will also benefit from Warren County’s contribution to the cost of the plant, valued at $75,000 per year over the course of ten years. The funds will be generated by the County’s share of the gross revenues from the Beach Road parking lot.

In the absence of roughly $17 million in outside support for the new wastewater treatment plant, Lake George Village would have been responsible for raising $525,000 every year for thirty years to service its debt. 

“The wastewater treatment plant is now affordable,” said Blais. 

Other budgetary increases, such as those driven by the rising costs of health insurance and retirement benefits, have been offset by higher revenues from sales and mortgage tax receipts and the fees charged by the Village for special events, among other things. 

Lake George Village not only relies upon roughly $800,000 per year in parking revenues, it has become more efficient at collecting fines for illegal parking, Blais said.

“Our meter enforcement people have been doing a great job,” said Blais. “We’ve almost doubled our collections of fines. In one year, we went from $88,000 in fines to $160,000. That’s substantial.”

The Village also benefits from inter-municipal agreements with the Town of Lake George to share the costs of services. In some cases, Lake George Village has seen its costs drop; in others, it has seen revenues increase. This year, the Village will earn more than $875,000 from its shared services agreements.

Elimination of a position at the wastewater treatment plant will save money, as will abolishing the Peace Officer program.  By abolishing that program, Lake George Village will save between $15,000 and $20,000, said Blais.

In place of the peace officers, a Warren County Sheriff’s Deputy will be stationed in Lake George Village three nights a week from Thursday through Sunday. 

That service will cost Lake George $20,000 for the summer, said Blais. 

The budget allocates $500,000 from its surplus funds and calls for private sponsorship of its $55,000 weekly fireworks shows.

Village employees will receive a .25 per hour raise. There is no increase in Elected Officials wages.

“Being able to come in under the State’s Tax Cap and hold a tax increase to 14 cents was truly the result of a great partnership with the State, Warren County and the Town of Lake George,” said Blais. “Without their support, our increase would have been over $1.25, over the Tax Cap and the State’s Constitutional Debt Limit.”