Town Board wants more time to work on budget
AMENIA â€” The townâ€™s supervisor was ready to vote, but the other Amenia Town Board members wanted to wait to make a decision on the 2011 preliminary budget. At the Nov. 10 meeting, which followed a public hearing, the board scheduled a final budget workshop for Monday, Nov. 15.
There was no presentation or summary of the budget before the public hearing opened, but at the Nov. 10 meeting the preliminary budget represented an estimated 7.5 percent tax levy increase, due in most part, according to Supervisor Wayne Euvrard, to severely decreased revenue and mortgage tax revenue.
In addition, pension costs have skyrocketed from $34,000 to $75,000, the supervisor made a point of noting. In a budget where every $10,000 represents roughly 1 percent, that alone could attribute for 4 percent of the increase. The general fund budget is actually lower than last year by more than $50,000, Euvrard said, also noting that two years ago he had managed to find an additional $100,000 to cut.
It was a sparse public turnout, especially considering the Nov. 10 meeting was both the public hearing on the budget as well as the first Town Board meeting in the new Town Hall. Several residents spoke, all in favor of the board cutting more from the budget. Leedsville resident Sharon Kroeger expressed concerns that the move into a new Town Hall was going to end up being too costly for taxpayers in hard times.
Kroeger complimented the board on the new Town Hall, saying there was â€œno question it is an amenityâ€ to the town, but said the timing was â€œout of jointâ€ and that she felt that the increased costs of being in the building would put the town in a tough financial situation.
Kroeger also said she felt that in these economic times there should be no salary increases for positions where the workload is essentially the same, a sentiment that was consequently shared by resident and former town Supervisor Arlene Iuliano. Iuliano, as was noted by Kroeger, did not take pay increases during her tenure as supervisor.
â€œThatâ€™s the way I wanted it,â€ Iuliano said.
Euvrardâ€™s supervisorâ€™s salary will increase to $22,400, a raise of $400 or a little less than 2 percent. In 2009 Euvrard received a roughly 15 percent raise. He was also set to receive a raise as acting director of finance, but declined the $140 raise to $7,140 after the Town Board unanimously decided to forgo their own salary increases for the second year in a row at the Nov. 15 budget workshop, staying at $5,700 each.
The rest of the elected town officials and town employees are set to receive about a 2 percent raise across the board.
At the Nov. 15 workshop meeting, Euvrard said that the budget was essentially â€œbare bonesâ€ already and he didnâ€™t see where much more could be cut.
Councilwoman Vicki Doyle wanted to go through the budget line by line, questioning every area where there was a proposed increase. She also wanted to see departments taking advantage of the new facilities, using the gymnasium and auditorium instead of paying transportation costs for trips.
Councilwoman Darlene Riemer agreed with the line of thinking, but admitted that she had tried the same thing herself and was not able to find much to cut.
In the end, the board was able to find an additional $2,096 to cut from the budget, through the aforementioned salary line adjustments, removing a $1,000 increase from the summer recreation program line budgeted for trips and cutting back the community beautification line by $500, from $2,000 to $1,500.
Euvrard then made a motion to accept the budget. Doyle voted no, but the remainder of the board agreed. The savings found at the Nov. 15 meeting will bring down the tax levy increase very slightly, settling at about 7 percent.
â€œIâ€™ve been working with the budget right from the beginning,â€ Euvrard said. â€œWe started with a 20 percent increase, and we knew that was unacceptable. Then we got it to 14, and now weâ€™re around 7-and-a-half, and Iâ€™m very comfortable with this budget.â€
The final public comment from the Nov. 10 meeting, from resident Tonia Shoumatoff, asked why Amenia was anticipating a 7.5 percent tax levy increase when surrounding towns were lower. She specifically mentioned the town of Washington at 2 percent and Dover at 3 percent.
â€œIt seems that Amenia is inordinately going up,â€ she said. â€œIt doesnâ€™t look good for our town. Weâ€™re not wealthy.â€
Euvrard said that there were many towns in Dutchess County that were looking at a double-digit increase. He added that he had spoken with the supervisor in Dover and that they were able to use $500,000 in fund balance they had saved to offset the tax levy.
â€œI guarantee you, you wonâ€™t see the same thing in Dover next year,â€ he said.