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Town considers layoffs, closing transfer station
Saugerties Times ^ | 11/9/12

Posted on 11/09/2012 2:24:14 PM PST by My Favorite Headache

The town did some slicing and dicing last week, reducing the tax levy increase by half to 4.4 percent on an $11.2 million budget proposal, and offering more possible cuts that would get it under the two percent tax cap.

Supervisor Kelly Myers put $394,000 in cuts on the table last week. Of those cuts, the board would need to select $225,000 to get the tax increase under two percent. Implementing all the cuts would bring the tax levy increase to around zero percent.

The biggest cut on the table is closing the town’s transfer station, which has been losing money for years. In the most recent year, operating costs were $500,000 and revenues were $400,000, so closing it would save the town $100,000. Other possible reductions: one police department position ($70,000); one assessor’s office staff position ($60,000); one highway department position ($60,000); $21,000 by reducing the police department budget by one percent; $13,000 through hiring a part-time technology specialist for 20 hours per week at $20 per hour; $8,000 by reducing the parks budget by one percent; and hiring a grant writer ($7,000).

A public hearing on the budget was held Nov. 7, and the final vote is planned for Nov. 19.

The transfer station

Of all the possible cuts, the transfer station would probably be the most apparent to the most residents. Myers attributed recent losses in its revenue to residents getting better at recycling — the station makes more money on trash. More residents have turned to curbside pickup, rather than packing up the pickup and hauling it out to West Saugerties.

Myers said possible changes to the county’s RRA (Resource Recover Agency) would influence the town’s decision. It’s possible the RRA will implement “flow control” and require private waste disposal companies to pay higher fees. If that happens, they’ll likely pass the costs on to consumers, and more residents would decide to use the transfer station instead, returning the operation to solvency.

The town has already decided to increase the fee of the annual permit from $15 to $25, which will bring in an additional $50,000, said Myers. If the transfer station does close, Saugerties residents would probably be able to use a facility in the town of Ulster. Woodstock residents, who also use the Saugerties station, are quite a bit farther away and would probably suffer more.

Salary issue

The board voted against proposed salary increases for the supervisor and highway supervisor. Myers had sought a $15,000 raise, from $35,000 to $50,000, in lieu of taking the town’s benefits package, saving the town several thousand dollars. In her first year, she didn’t take benefits; instead, her family was covered by her husband’s plan, which carries monthly premiums of several hundred dollars. That’s no longer affordable, she said, but she would continue with the plan if the town gave her a salary increase. Myers pointed out that her predecessor, Greg Helsmoortel, did take the town benefit, bringing his total compensation up to $50,000. She added that the town is looking at potential insurance increases that could push her benefit costs up to around $22,000, meaning the town would save about $7,000 by granting her request for a salary increase.

Board member Jimmy Bruno said he understands the math, but the public perception would be that Myers was giving herself a 40 percent raise after one year in office.

Myers said the board’s position was motivated by political rather than financial considerations.

Tax rates (subject to change)

Tax rates depend on both the budget and the assessed value of properties in the town. According to a tax table, total assessments have declined from $2,022,821,817 to $1,976,643,480, and the value of the average house has declined from $213,671 to $208,551.

Because of this drop, tax rates had to increase at a greater clip than the tax levy. The following tax rates apply to the budget as it stands now, without any of the cuts mentioned above: $6.40 per $1000 assessed value for town residents outside the village (an increase of 7.8 percent) and $4.38 per $1000 for village residents (an 11.1 percent increase).

The preliminary budget calls for $11,154,717 in spending, with an $8,906,217 tax levy. That’s an increase of $473,492 over this year’s total. The increase works out to 4.4 percent, down from more than five percent in the earlier preliminary budget.

Again, this is before any further cuts are decided upon.

Board discusses the cuts

Councilman Bruce Leighton questioned the savings that could be realized with a reduction in the police department staff, noting that this could lead to an increase in overtime and thus prove more expensive. The board agreed to hold off on this change until Costello has discussed it with Police Chief Joseph Sinagra.

“He (Sinagra) has said it’s our choice to budget, and he’ll live within it – but he will determine where he can diminish the service,” Costello said.

The board discussed cuts to the various nonprofit organizations to which the town contributes, such as the Boys & Girls Club and programs for the aging. Councilwoman Leeanne Thornton suggested cutting 10 percent from these organizations’ budgets, rather than the 20 percent Myers had suggested, while letting the organizations know they face a probable additional 10 percent reduction next year. This would give them time to adjust their fundraising and budgets.

One such organization, the Historical Society, could turn a profit in future years through the construction of an antique barn on its property, which could be rented out for special occasions. Thornton noted that state Senator John Bonacic had donated beams, siding and flooring from an old barn he had restored and has supported the restoration.

A suggestion that the town hire a part-time attorney for $60,000 per year for 29.5 hours per week, rather than employing attorneys at an hourly rate, raised some questions. The attorney would cover courts, municipal legal needs and planning and zoning. This could save $25,000 and have a lawyer on call when needed, Myers said. However, Costello said the current town attorneys are familiar with the town’s legal situations; Myers said they would be free to seek the job if they wanted it. The issue is money, not expertise, Myers said, noting the town could save $25,000 by making the change.

The same considerations would apply to the hiring of a grant writer, rather than having a person do the job on an hourly fee basis, Myers said. Costello said the same qualifications apply – some of the town’s grants have been obtained through organizations that have their own grant writers with specific expertise available. In particular, Costello cited several grants that had been written by police department personnel. Myers acknowledged that Parks and Buildings Supervisor Greg Chorvas has also been successful in obtaining grants. Hiring a grant writer could save $7,000, Myers estimated. The board agreed, with Costello opposed, to creating the position.

The cost of overtime for court workers could be reduced by $20,000 a year by opening the office at 9 a.m. rather than 8 a.m. as it is now, Myers said. A smaller savings – $8,000 – could be realized by hiring a part-time person in the court.

The board agreed to meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday, November 13 to discuss the proposals made at the meeting they had just concluded, as well as any others that the public might bring up at the public hearing. About $225,000 in additional cuts will be needed to bring the budget down to the two percent cap. “I think that it’s possible to get below the cap,” said Myers.

The board has set a meeting at 5 p.m. Friday November 19 to vote on the budget.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; News/Current Events; US: New York

1 posted on 11/09/2012 2:24:16 PM PST by My Favorite Headache
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To: My Favorite Headache

Be kind. What state is this?

2 posted on 11/09/2012 2:29:17 PM PST by upchuck (We are not finished yet. But when nobama chooses some more SCOTUS judges, we will be. For ever.)
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To: upchuck

I always love these small town new stories. They never put their location in there. I tried to subscribe thinking it would give me an address, but all I got were rates inside Hudson Valley and rates outside Hudson Valley. It’s a mystery, I tell you.

3 posted on 11/09/2012 2:49:22 PM PST by w1andsodidwe (Barrak has now won the contest. He is even worse than Jimmah.)
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To: upchuck
Saugerties is a town in the Hudson Valley region of New York State. The New York State Thruway runs through it.

The decline of manufacturing in New York has hit it very hard.

4 posted on 11/09/2012 2:49:32 PM PST by Steely Tom (If the Constitution can be a living document, I guess a corporation can be a person.)
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To: My Favorite Headache

Imagine such straightforward discussion from congress... if the media would allow it.

5 posted on 11/09/2012 2:59:21 PM PST by mrsmith (Dumb sluts: Lifeblood of the Media, Backbone of the Democrat Party!)
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To: My Favorite Headache

Why don’t they just vote a debt increase and buy bonds from themselves?

6 posted on 11/09/2012 3:02:06 PM PST by glorgau
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