November 2, 2004

Budget revisions

While Town Hall is occupied with voting machines right now, on Thursday night it will be the scene of a budget hearing. [Update: No, it won't be. The budget hearing has moved to the Village Hall (map).] With all the election work I've been doing, I haven't managed to cover last Monday's budget workshop (the four hours of it I saw, anyway) or the preliminary budget that it's produced. The tentative budget was the supervisor's budget before the workshop, and the preliminary budget is the budget going in to the public hearing.

For more detail on the tentative budget and the changes it reflected, see my earlier stories on the top-level view, the body of the town budget, and the special districts.

The workshop was fairly quiet. The Town Justices came to ask for additional funding for metal detection equipment, including a wand and a walk-through detector, as well as a salary increase to reflect their increased caseload, especially in around-the-clock arraignments and a growing small claims load. The Varna and Dryden fire companies had representatives there, as did Dryden Ambulance. The new Recreation Coordinator, Jennifer Staton, was also there, and bookkeeper Dawn Bogdan helped the board understand the often incomprehensible printouts.

Town budget workshop
Town budget workshop discussion.

The fire departments seemed happy about the prospect of two-year contracts, bringing their negotiations out of the election cycle. One-time expenditures for the fire companies are down this year. Varna has one piece of software that needs upgrading, and is requesting a thermal imaging camera next year. Neptune Hose Company is facing the prospect of needing an addition to house equipment, as replacement vehicles are larger than the vehicles whose places they take. There were also concerns about the local cost of the county's upcoming emergency communications system. Fuel costs have increased significantly. Finally, Etna Fire Company hadn't put in a budget (and hasn't been paid so far this year), so they were budgeted the same as last year.

Clayton Bronson, Director of Ambulance Operations at Dryden Ambulance, was excited about their use of a floating 'chase car' that stays in the western half of the town from 7am to 3pm Monday to Friday, providing first-responder support. The EMTs can reach the scene faster than an ambulance, and can provide immediate help while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

Councilman Marty Christofferson walked the board through wage levels, proposing a 3% cost-of-living increase but proposing higher salaries for some employees whose wages are substantially below those of similar surrounding towns, notably the Town Clerk and Zoning Officer, as well as lower increases for those who have done better recently. The board held off on increases for the Town Justices. There was also some discussion of Town Attorney Mahlon Perkins' request for a rate increase, but board members held off until they could get more details about the current arrangement.

Some of the discussion explained particular line items. Dog Surplus, for instance, is what's left of the county's share of dog license fees after the county has paid out to owners of livestock damaged by dogs in the town. Project Impact is about disaster prevention. Councilman Marty Christofferson seemed frustrated by the opacity of the budget process, and also by the town's budgeting money with the understanding that it might not be spent.

Looking over the results of their work, the tax rate remains unchanged at $1.47, raising $912,554. Beyond that (focusing on changes of more than 5% or $5000):

  • The appropriation for Personal Services for the Town Justices (which includes their staff) increased from $102,643 to $107,882.
  • The appropriation for equipment for the Town Justices decreased from $10,000 to $2000. (The board approved the wand but not the walk-through metal detector.)
  • The appropriation for Personal Services for the Receiver of Taxes and Assessment increased from $26,562 to $29,824.
  • The appropriation for Personnel decreased from $30,600 to $20,600.
  • The appropriation for contractual expenditures for buildings decreased from $38,000 to $34,000.
  • Contractual expenditures for Dryden Lake Park increased from $2000 to $9,500.
  • Personal services for Youth Recreation, money for interns, went from $6000 to zero.
  • Contractual expenditures for Planning fell from $6500 to $4000.

There don't seem to be any changes in the special district budgets, including fire, ambulance, lighting, water, and sewer, though Dawn Bogdan assures me that the consistent zeros for special assessments are a bug in the budget program. It sounds like she's working on replacing that program soon anyway, and hopefully that will yield more readable budget information.

Posted by simon at November 2, 2004 1:50 PM in , , ,
Note on photos