Orangetown board discusses Stewart’s last budget

BY JOE KUHN

The Orangetown Town Board convened this week to review budget presentations from several departments and services including the Rockland Paramedics, the Nyack Ambulance Corps, Hi Tor Animal Shelter and the Orangetown Department of Environmental Management and Engineering. During the presentations each service outlined their respective operating costs item by item and explained their current operations to both the board and the citizens in attendance.

Representatives of the Hi Tor Animal Shelter reported that Rockland’s only animal shelter is in financial dire straits and is requesting increased funding from all five towns, part of a strategic plan involving building a new facility on county land at the current site in Pomona. The capital expense for the new facility will be funded by the county.

Mark Cygielman, CFO of the Rockland County paramedics, projected a 2 percent increase in the service’s budget primarily due to the rising costs of employee health care. Town Supervisor Andrew Stewart remarked that the board “appreciates their attempt to keep their budget increase modest.” The South Orangetown Ambulance Corps reported that their budget was on track with last years and that they have established a sinking fund to help bear the cost of new first response vehicles. The board was pleased with the news, board member Thomas Diviny commenting that the corps actions served as a “lesson on how to run an organization”

Finally the Department of Environmental Management and Engineering (D.E.M.E.) reported on their ongoing efforts to rebuild local sewers. The noninvasive restoration process, which was conducted without any excavation, cost an estimated 3 million dollars; the department has deemed restoration of the Nyack sewers impossible and believes that portion of the sewage system must be completely replaced. The D.E.M.E. also explained that they are planning to update the ​”telemetry” ​technology, which enables improved remote monitoring of the vital signs of the towns many pump stations and critical waste water processes.

During the meeting the board also heard from town Assessor Brian Kenney who was happy to explain that he and his colleagues have managed to mitigate the tax hike facing Orangetown residents after a state-set equalization formula determined that properties in Orangetown have gone up in value. The formula had previously determined that Orangetown property values had increased significantly over the past year while Clarkston’s remained almost the same, meaning that Orangetown residents would have to bear a larger share of the cost of operating the two towns shared school districts i
n Nanuet and Nyack.

Mr. Kenney explained that he and his department had managed to convince the state board that their calculations were inaccurate, largely because the board had significantly overvalued the Industrial Reality Group, a large pharmaceutical complex based in Pearl River; the state board valued the property at $275 million whereas in actuality the property sold for $40 million. After dropping the sale of the IRG lands from their calculations the state board set a new tax rate which will save Orangetown tax payers $150 per household.

Before adjourning the board also approved a number of motions including the finalization of a yearlong plan to purchase all of the town’s streetlights from the Orange and Rockland Utility company and replace their bulbs with energy efficient L.E.D. lights. The plan is expected to save the town $ 200,000.