The Saratogian

Saratoga Springs adding full time city judge

The Daily Gazette

Sausville to Chair County Board

This time of year, some people know Paul J. Sausville best for the Christmas trees he sells annually from his woodlot on Raymond Road in Malta. But that’s only a hobby — along with a recent interest in blacksmithing — for the Malta town supervisor. He’ll have less time for hobbies starting next week, when Sausville is scheduled to become the 2014 chairman of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors. During his one-year term, Sausville said, he wants to put an emphasis on character education and also to work creating a new economic development plan for the county. The retired Department of Environmental Conservation civil engineer will succeed Alan R. Grattidge of Charlton under the Republican majority’s rotating leadership system, which gives everyone who achieves enough seniority a turn. His selection wasn’t certain until last week, when an appeals court ruling affirmed his one-vote re-election victory in November over Democrat Cynthia Young. With that controversy behind him, Sausville said he’s excited to pursue his ideas for the county. To promote character, motivational speaker Jay Rifenbary of Saratoga Springs will speak at Sausville’s swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 2. Through the year, the plan is to have high school student essayists make presentations to the Board of Supervisors. “I think it’s important in our everyday lives that we tell the truth. We have a responsibility as the top elected leaders of our towns and the county to set a good example,” Sausville said. He also thinks a new strategic economic development plan, now being drafted by a consultant, could have benefits. He’s hoping the county can apply to be an “innovation hot spot” under one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new programs. “It just seems like a natural,” Sausville said, pointing to the growing GlobalFoundries computer chip plant and the roster of high-tech and innovation businesses at the Saratoga Technology + Energy Park in Malta. Saratoga town Supervisor Thomas N. Wood, a former chairman of the county board, said Sausville developed strong administrative skills during his career with the DEC — and he’ll need them, “One thing I can tell you is the job requires a lot of administrative work,” Wood said. Because of the extra workload, the board chairman earns $25,187, whereas other supervisors earn $18,508. Wood said he has confidence in Sausville. “He is an extremely hard worker and diligent in studying an issue as long as needed before taking a position,” Wood said. Sausville, 74, became town supervisor in 2006, but has been involved in Malta town government’s decision-making for nearly 40 years. Though the town has grown enormously over that time, he often talks about the benefits of keeping a “small-town” atmosphere.

Sausville’s opposition to Malta’s established growth-control policies — he’s been opposed to dense downtown development — has earned him criticism from Town Board members and the business community. His re-election this year required winning a primary in September and ended with his contested one-vote win over Young. “I have run in 10 elections and won every one, though the last one by one vote,” he commented. Sausville said he expects to retire at the end of his new twoyear term. Sausville comes by his interest in small-town values naturally. He grew up in Bennington, Vt., in the 1940s and 1950s. “My parents worked six days a week as clerks,” Sausville recalled. “My father worked in a hardware store, my mother worked in a dry cleaner’s. They put their kids through college.” The seeds of future community involvement may have been planted by his mother, who he said was always active in the community, and his high school girlfriend, Nancy — more than 50 years later, his wife — whose grandfather was the highway superintendent in the nearby town of Shaftsbury. Sausville wanted an outdoor career. A high school counselor suggested civil engineering, with its emphasis on building roads, bridges and dams. Sausville took the advice, though not everything went as planned. “The reality is after the first few years, I spent most of my career in the office,” he said this week. He graduated from the University of Vermont, worked on road survey crews, including one laying out an interstate cloverleaf near Burlington, and landed a job at what in 1963 was the New York State Conservation Department — later to become the DEC. At first, Sausville was part of a team looking for new sites for hydroelectric dams — but that was just before the rise of the environmental movement, with its opposition to dams that destroyed scenic natural areas, which killed most new dam projects. “It was a fun time,” Sausville recalled. “Robert Moses was our hero for building the St. Lawrence Seaway.” Sausville retired from DEC in 1999, having supervised a number of programs, including petroleum and chemical storage, setting water quality standards and planning for municipal sewage systems. He became a partner in a small engineering consulting fi rm until 2006, when he became town supervisor, which is a full-time job. Earlier in his career, Sausville served on the Town Board, spent more than a decade as chairman of the town Planning Board and served on other town planning and zoning committees — all during a three-decade period during which Malta’s population nearly quadrupled, due to residential and later commercial growth. “It’s really been a lot of fun,” Sausville said. He and Nancy have two daughters, a son and nine grandchildren. His son, Paul John — the supervisor is Paul James — will swear him in on Jan. 2. His son is a U.S. Army attorney, an Iraq war veteran, assigned to the state’s Division of Military and Naval Affairs. The swearing-in will take place at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 2 at the county boardrooms in Ballston Spa.

Average tax rate ticks up a penny

Most Saratoga County property owners will be paying a little more — if just a tiny bit more — in county property taxes next year. Local tax collectors are sending out more than 82,000 tax bills that reflect the penny-per-$1,000 average tax increase that is part of the 2014 county budget. It is the third year in a row property taxes have increased, though Saratoga County’s taxes remain among the lowest in the state. The size of the increase has gotten smaller each year — 3.5 percent in 2012, 1.5 percent in 2013 and one penny — less than a half-percent — for the coming year.  Given that trend, Board of Supervisors Chairman Alan R. Grattidge, R-Charlton, said he’s optimistic no increase will be needed in 2015.  He said the pending sale of the county’s Maplewood Manor nursing home — which has been a multimillion dollar financial drain on the county for a decade — will allow the county to stabilize its financial condition. For decades, he noted, sales tax growth and rising property values meant Saratoga County’s costs could be covered without rates having to rise. That changed, however, when sales tax revenue dropped during the 2008-2009 recession. Since then, sales tax revenue is rising again. “As the economy improves and we see gains in the sales tax, I see our property tax being stabilized. We have addressed our major structural problems,” Grattidge said.

As occurred last year, the county tax bill will be broken onto two separate lines to show that the majority of the bill — 98 percent, by the county’s calculation — is needed to pay state-mandated costs such as Medicaid benefits and reimbursements to community colleges. A tax bill in the town of Ballston, for instance, will say that only 3.5 cents of the $2.44 per $1,000 tax rate is to fund the county’s voluntary spending, while state mandates account for $2.41.  Under a “Truth in Taxation” law adopted by county supervisors in 2012, a notice also will be included with the bills explaining that many of the county’s costs are beyond its control. The total amount collected from county property owners — the tax levy — will be $52.4 million, up from $51.6 million this year. The average tax rate per $1,000 assessed value is rising from $2.27 to $2.28, but actual tax rates vary significantly from one community to another because of different practices that each uses to assess property.  Providence, for example, has higher rates than other towns because it never adopted full-value assessments.  Communities also gain or lose total property value compared to one another every year. Because of that, rates in a community can sometimes fall even if there’s a countywide increase.

Taxpayers will have until the end of January to pay their town tax collector before interest is imposed as a penalty. The penalty is 1 percentage point per month, starting in February.

These are the 2013 Saratoga County property tax rates:
BALLSTON: $2.44 per $1,000 assessed value, up from $2.40 in 2012. There are no townwide taxes, though most residents pay special district taxes for fire, ambulance, library, water and other services. CHARLTON: $3.58, down from $3.65. No townwide taxes, though all residents pay a local fire protection tax . CLIFTON PARK: $4.09, up from $4.08 per $1,000. No town general tax; highway, 20 cents; there are many special district taxes, from fire protection to park districts. CORINTH: $2.42, down from $2.43. Town general, $1.92; highway, $1.37; special district taxes for fire protection, and in some areas for lighting and water. DAY: $3.47, up from $3.46. No town general; highway, $2.10; also a fire protection tax . EDINBURG: $4.22, up from $4.16. No town general; highway, $1.10; also a fire protection tax . GALWAY: $4.28, up from $4.26. Town general, $1.09; highway, 33 cents; also fi re protection districts. GREENFIELD: $2.33, up from $2.31. No town general; highway, $1.83; also a fi re protection district. HADLEY: $3.07, up from $3.06. Town general, $2.23; highway, $3.24; also fire, ambulance and other special districts. HALFMOON: $3.84, up from $3.80. No town general or highway tax; special districts for fire, library, water and sewer. MALTA: $2.37, up from $2.36. Town general, 0.5-cent; no highway; taxes for library, fi re protection, sewer, lighting and other special districts. MECHANICVILLE: County tax rate $3.76, down from $3.64. City rates to be determined. Bills to be sent later than bills for residents of towns. MILTON: $2.54, up from $2.53. Town general outside village, 49 cents; no highway; special districts for fi re, ambulance, lighting, water and sewer. MOREAU: $2.21 in South Glens Falls, down from $2.23; outside South Glens Falls, $1.45, down from $1.46. Town general, 55 cents; no highway tax; special districts for fire, library, water, sewer and lighting. NORTHUMBERLAND: $2.54, up from $2.51. No town general; highway, $1.39; also special districts for ambulance and fi re protection. PROVIDENCE: $12.09, up from $11.51. Town general, $4.16; highway, $15.54; also fi re protection tax. TOWN OF SARATOGA: $2.44, up from $2.43. Town general, $1.12; no highway; ambulance, fi re and other special districts. SARATOGA SPRINGS: County tax rate $2.97, up from $2.96. City rates to be determined. Bills to be sent later than bills for residents of towns. STILLWATER: $2.54, down from $2.55. Town general, $1.08; highway outside village, $1.40; also library, fi re, ambulance, water, sewer, lighting and other special districts. WATERFORD: $6.67, down from $7.05. Town general, $11.80; special districts for fire, ambulance and lighting. WILTON: $2.36, unchanged. No town general or highway; special districts for fire and ambulance.

Code Blue takes effect

Cloaked in a hooded winter coat, the man pushed a small shopping cart of his belongings across Hamilton Street and slowly made his way toward the St. Peter’s auxiliary building on Christmas Eve.

At the door, amid temperatures dipping into the low 20s, he paused at a sign reading succinctly, “Code Blue shelter entrance.” Within moments, a volunteer was opening the door for him and helping to lift his cart up a short flight of steps toward the former school’s multipurpose room. The only intake point was manned by a volunteer with a small composition book. The only questions asked were ones to determine the man’s immediate needs. Only volunteers and the city’s homeless population were welcomed at the temporary shelter with about a dozen cots. All others were asked to leave the premises so as to not upset any trust being forged between them during the city’s fi rst Code Blue initiative. “We want to maintain their privacy and their trust,” said Sharah Yaddaw, a street outreach coordinator working with CAPTAIN Youth and Family Services, one of the many organizations helping the initiative. “Basically, this is not about us. This is about the people who need a safe place to stay.” With temperatures expected to dip down to 10 degrees, volunteers pledged to canvass the city in search of the homeless with the hope of coaxing them into a warm place for the evening. Though the overnight low wouldn’t be nearly as bone-chilling as a cold snap that struck the city last week, a modest breeze was enough to make it feel sub-zero, according to the National Weather Service in Albany. Volunteers posted signs around the city urging the homeless to seek shelter at St. Peter’s. They even used chalk to scroll a notice on the sidewalk in the middle of Broadway downtown.
Various community organizations throughout the city and Saratoga County banded together to launch the initiative, which is largely based on one that had been operating in Albany since 2010. The emergency shelter arrangement with St. Peter’s is triggered when temperatures are expected to drop down to 10 degrees or a foot of snow is in the forecast. “Together with the local multifaith community and nonprofit partners, we have successfully opened our first Code Blue night in Saratoga Springs,” said Joanne Yepsen, the city’s mayor-elect and one of the driving forces behind the initiative. “I want to thank the overwhelming support from former homeless individuals and generous donors in the community, who are all determined to make this a success.” The emergency initiative was spurred in part by the death of 54-year-old Nancy Pitts earlier this month. Pitts, who struggled with homelessness for years, was found dead on the exposed back loading dock of the Saratoga Springs Senior Center the morning after overnight temperatures dropped into the low teens. An investigation into Pitts’ death is continuing and toxicology is pending, but police don’t suspect foul play. Some among the city’s homeless population seek refuge near the senior center, where they are tolerated provided they leave when it opens in the morning. Others seek wooded areas on the outskirts of the city. The city has 33 beds available at the Shelters of Saratoga, but they’re dedicated for those among the homeless committed to changing their lifestyle. The shelter’s intake process is extensive and residents are expected to stay sober through the duration of their stay, which can range upward of two months. Some believe the city’s lack of a no-questions-asked shelter for temporary stays is a glaring problem that needs addressing. City leaders hope the swift creation of a Code Blue program is a measure that can at least provide a brief respite during the most brutal days of the winter months. The shelter at St. Peter’s is expected to close today, once temperatures rise back into the 20s. But that could change with the Arctic air mass now forming over Canada. “There will be some potential for some very cold weather next week,” said Kevin Lipton, a meteorologist with the weather service.

Local groups to share in Farm Aid proceeds

Two local agricultural organizations have received grants from Farm Aid after September’s fundraising concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. When some $573,514 was distributed nationally last week, recipients included the Regional Farm & Food Project of Saratoga Springs and the Agricultural Stewardship Association of Greenwich. Each organization received a $7,500 grant. Farm Aid grants range from $2,500 to $10,000, according to the organization. “Farm Aid grantees work every day to change our food system from the ground up,” said Farm Aid Executive Director Carolyn Mugar. “We are honored to call these innovative folks our partners in the movement for good food from family farms.” The Regional Farm & Food Project is being set up to establish a farmer and consumer cooperative for the greater Saratoga area. “We are a community resource for farmers, consumers, entrepreneurs and policy makers,” the project says on its website. “We nurture small farms because we know that small farms don’t just produce food, they provide jobs, economic growth, open space, ecological services, scenic views, community character and preserve biodiversity — and they are a critical component of sustainable human and planetary health.” The Agricultural Stewardship Association, which has been based in Washington County for a number of years, is a land trust dedicated to protecting farmland from development. The Farm Aid grant is for a program called the Greater Hudson Valley Farmlink Network, which serves the entire Hudson Valley and has a goal of bringing young people into farming and helping them secure land from aging farmers looking to dispose of theirs. “The goal of the program is to help locate and evaluate available farmland and match new and beginning farmers with landowners,” according to the grant application. Farm Aid uses the money raised through its annual concerts to support small farms, small farm organizations and local food networks. Farm Aid was founded in 1985 by musician Willie Nelson and has held annual concerts at various locations around the county to support the organization. The SPAC event, the first of the concerts to be held in upstate New York, was a sold-out show that featured Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews and others, including an appearance by folk music legend Pete Seeger. The group also organized farm tours and educational programs.

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