The Dryden Town Board passed its 2007 budget last night, after discussion of tax collection, recreation, community centers, and the general openness of the process.
The Town Board has indeed held its required meetings and hearings, and made the budget available through printed copies at the Town Hall. It hasn't however, even done as much as it did two years ago in putting the budget up on the web site, and the document remains a pretty completely incomprehensible document. Figuring out what a line item means requires asking question after question. I suggested that the Board consider providing a budget for explaining the budget, since they're obviously putting zero resources into making this document useful for the public.
In more substantive changes, the board included $12,000 for a public audit, as the Town hasn't had one in years, despite a bookkeeper convicted of embezzling funds. They also added $12,000 for a town-wide recreation study. The highway budget is up, because of rising fuel costs and a bridge, and employees received a 4% cost of living increase, except that the Environmental Planner received a higher one as previously agreed.
The $25,000 that the Town Board allocated for community centers last year remained contentious, with $17,000 of it likely to remain unspent this year and next year's $25,000 line having no clear direction. County Legislator Martha Robertson asked the board whether community centers could apply for some of that remaining $17,000 this year and eventually was told that yes, the board would consider applications. (It's still not entirely clear how centers should apply for the $2,000 each they were allocated in an earlier compromise. Skip Thorne of the Etna Community Association was there with a letter from 2004 about the Etna playground, and that may work out.
In related questions, Robertson also asked about the OURS program, who had presented at the August board meeting. The Youth Commission is interested in working with them, but lacks a budget for that. After a lot of back and forth, Councilman Steve Stelick agreed to meet with them soon. The Board didn't want to change the budget - which would result in another public hearing - but did say they'd consider the project, along with others, in the contingency funds of the budget. (The town has $75,000 in its contingency budget, up from 2006's $62,980.62.)
Former County Legislator Mike Lane asked about the current combination of Town Clerk and Tax Collector, suggesting that the Town Clerk's job is underpaid but also suggesting that the Town look for cheaping options for handling tax collections, as the school districts use banks. He thanked the Board for their support of local libraries, and there was some conversation about the county's support of rural libraries, which seems to be safe for the moment.
While the Town stood firm on its "4% rule" with the four major fire departments in the town, they seemed surprised by a letter from the Brooktondale Fire Company which rejected their proposal. Brooktondale covers Dryden south of Snyder Hill Road, including Route 79. The company had requested $19,800 for the contract, while the town offered $18,570. The company returned with $19,000, still more than the 4% planned. The board didn't think they could change the budget without another public hearing, didn't sound excited about the prospect of making an exception, even a small one, and agreed to talk further with Brooktondale.