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Nisky lawn debris fee official

Councilman spars with supervisor over fee implementation

— There is a new fee on the books in Niskayuna, but one councilman is painting it as a scam to raise additional revenue.

The Niskayuna Town Board approved a new lawn debris fee by a 3-1 vote on Tuesday, Jan. 24, with Councilman Jonathan McKinney dissenting and Councilwoman Liz Orzel Kasper absent from the meeting.

The local law establishes a new fee for the town picking up brush, grass, branches and other yard waste. The $30 annual fee applies to every resident or property owner and is applied by default, which McKinney characterized as a swindle to raise additional revenue.

“If they sign up everybody they are hoping people will forget and just pay it and not realize they are paying it,” McKinney said. “Why trick people into paying to help balance your budget?”

Every property owner wishing to avoid the fee and refuse the town’s service must file a notice with the town clerk prior to March 15 every year; otherwise, the fee will be charged every year it isn’t waived.

The town’s 2012 budget includes $150,000 in new revenue from implementation of the fee. McKinney was the sole board member who voted against adoption of budget.

Supervisor Joe Landry said the automatic charge was done as a convenience for residents.

“There are a lot of reasons to allow people to make that decision once a year and we are doing that for benefit of the residents,” Landry said.

Landry said town officials believe a majority of residents will utilize the service, ensuring the budgeted revenue line. Also, he said it would be easier for town employees to work with the “smaller number of people opting out” than with the larger amount of people using the service.

Some reasons for the annual opt-out, he said, were if a property transfers between someone and if one year a person decides to utilize a private service.

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Comments

tefarney 2 years, 7 months ago

Here is how I understand this: To address the tax cap the town has elected to charge "fees" in lieu of taxes (essentially the same thing). To receive the same service I received last year for my tax contribution to the town I now have to pay an additional fee. Since this fee is estimated to generate $150,000 in town revenue/fees but the estimated cost of of the service is estimated between $300,000 - $500,000 annually, should I choose not to pay the fee, my tax dollars will in part, subsidize others use of the service (In other words, I will help pay for over 60% of a service which I will not be "allowed" to utilize.

I'm open to corrections in my understanding here. However, as I see it we are creating a poor workaround at increasing taxes above the cap threshold. I also question the legality of it - How is it a portion of my taxes will go toward lawn debris pickup but I can't use the service if I don't pay an additional fee?I can appreciate there are many difficult challenges facing our town, and all municipalities, cities, counties, and states. I'm very saddened though that the CHOICE made is to continue to increase the burden on taxpayers as opposed to making hard decisions rooted in a principle of holding taxes at current levels.

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