Town Board Budget Meetings
November 13 & 14, 2014
After a day and half of meetings with department heads and discussions among themselves, the board adopted a series of resolutions that modified the supervisor’s Tentative 2015 Budget to become the 2015 Preliminary Budget.
The board also changed the date of the budget hearing to Thursday, December 11th from December 10th.
11/19/2014 change: The hearing has now been rescheduled for Tuesday, December 9th at 6pm.
By adding a total of approximately $300,750 to the General Fund budget and a few thousand dollars each to the Highway and Library funds, and then reducing the total use of fund balance from the three funds by $450,000, the increase in the “Town” tax (the tax for the General, Highway and Library funds that all property owners pay for) went to 4.96% from 0.87%.
Together, the changes added $792,383 to the combined tax levy for all 27 separate budgets (funds) , leaving the town $198,396 under its permitted tax levy cap of $30,192,667.
Small changes were made to the Refuse and Osceola and Yorktown Sewer funds.
The major additions included:
· Adding back into the budget the positions for a secretary in the supervisor’s office and a deputy comptroller in the finance department. Both positions are in the 2014 budget but were not filled. Supervisor Grace said he needed the extra help in his office to get certain projects done, especially working on a plan for 2018 after the current garbage contract ends in 2017. For the finance department, the board has accepted the Westchester County Civil Service determination that a person currently employed in the department did not meet the qualifications for the deputy comptroller job and that because it was important to have a deputy in the event the comptroller was out, a new person will have to be hired.
· $45,000 to purchase a third new car for the police department.
· $5,000 for highway seasonal help in order to reconstitute the “stream team” that had been used in prior years to clean up culverts and streets to minimize flooding.
· $2,000 in the library budget for Sunday hours.
· $37,750 for the park and recreation department, in part to cover the increase in the minimum wage for summer help.
· $15,000 to buy/construct a new table for the Town Board.
· $16,200 to purchase software to assist the town comply with reporting requirements of the Affordable Health Care Act.
In response to concerns from Councilman Patel about relying on too heavily on the fund balance, the board agreed to the following reductions in the use of fund balance.
· $900,000 instead of $1,150,000 from the General Fund
· $250,000 instead of $350,000 from the Library Fund
· Eliminated taking $100,000 from the Highway Fund.
An earlier motion by Councilman Patel to reduce the use of fund balance by $600,000 failed to get a second.
Two additional motions by Councilman Patel failed to get a second: One to eliminate the 5% raises for elected officials and a second to eliminate the purchase of a projector for the theater at an estimated cost of $60,000. (Money for the projector was included in the 2014 budget but not spent.)
Other highlights of the meetings
Garbage: Supervisor Grace said that the town needed to start planning now for how residential garbage will be picked up beginning 2018 when the cost will increase. (The current contract with Competition Carting/R&S Waste services was extended earlier this year through 2017 at the same price.) Options include continuing to contract out or switch to in-house collection using automated trucks and only once a week pick-ups. Pending a decision, the supervisor rejected the department’s request to purchase a new packer truck in 2015.
Escrow accounts for development applications. Supervisor Grace said he wanted to end the practice of having applicants pay when the town needed to hire consultants to review their plans. Instead, he suggested that a fee be added to the basic application fee based on the environmental constraints of the development plan. If there were no constraints, there wouldn’t be the extra fee.
Hallocks Mill sewers. Supervisors Grace was optimistic that in 2015 the town would be able to issue sewer permits and begin to plan to provide sewers to those still on septic, although this would be done over time. He also talked about the need to upgrade some aging pump stations. The budget includes $200,000 to begin the design work on at least one pump station.
Jefferson Valley Mall. Although not the subject of any budget discussions, Building Inspector John Winter informed the board that Simon Properties has not yet paid the fee for its building permit or take steps to have the final site plans signed.
Building fees: Mr. Winter is rewriting the electrical and plumbing codes which will involve an increase in fees. He was also directed by Supervisor Grace to come up with a plan for charging fees for fire inspections.
Nutrition program. In response to Mary DeSilva’s request for $14,000 for a walk-in cooler to store produce that is donated to the program, Supervisor Grace said that because there was a possibility of a new senior center “sooner than later” it didn’t make sense to purchase any new equipment for the existing kitchen. He added that the YCCC was “an absolute pit” and that it didn’t pay to make any investments in the building.
Water Department: Supervisor Grace stated his opposition to the water meter replacement program stating it didn’t make sense if the program only captured a small percentage of meter reading errors. He also questioned how the program was initially bid out. When Councilman Patel said that the new meters help conserve water because customers become more aware of what they are using, the supervisor responded that the conservation issue was more about finding and resolving leaks than meters. The budget does include $200,000 to replace meter pits which are difficult to read when covered with snow. Water Superintendent Rambo talked about the benefits of the new meters. He also advised the board that an additional $600,000 would be needed to complete the cement relining capital project, plus, over time, about $500,000 each to repaint the town’s water tanks.
Commenting on the district’s approximate $6 million fund balance, Supervisor Grace said that the town should not be keeping taxpayer money. (The supervisor made the same point when discussing the large fund balance in the Yorktown Sewer district)
Highway. Highway Superintendent Paganelli estimated that it would cost $25 million to pave the entire town and advised the board that Somers had recently approved a $3 million bond for paving. Commenting on the budget’s $25,000 drainage line, he said drainage is boring and that the town deals with the problem when it happens. He said he would like $230,000 for a new street sweeper, suggesting that if the sand collected by the sweeper was mixed with road salt, it would reduce the town’s salt bill.
Mr. Paganelli explained that he has been working for seven other highway superintendents to share specialized equipment that is needed only occasionally by each town. The sharing will help the town comply with a requirement in the new tax cap legislation that includes payments to property owners based on whether they have an intermunicipal sharing program that reduces costs
Mr. Paganelli also spoke about the need to adopt a schedule for annual truck purchases – and stick to the schedule. (The same subject came up with the police department and replacement cars.)