Orangetown’s 2013 Budget Looms

BY BOB KNIGHT

The Town of Orangetown will get a look at Supervisor Andrew Stewart’s preliminary 2013 budget at next Monday’s town board meeting.

Stewart and the taxpayers of Orangetown are facing a tough battle, as they must balance the town’s financial obligation with Governor Cuomo’s two percent tax levy cap.

At Tuesday evening’s workshop meeting, Stewart told the board that his goals for the budget are to maintain all current town services, preserve the town’s existing infrastructure, all while keeping taxes at their current level and keeping the budget under the cap.

However Stewart acknowledged the possibility of a large tax increase even if the town does not increase spending next year. To avoid that increase the town will need to start cutting.

Stewart said he instructed every department head to submit a budget request for next year with a five percent decrease in expenditures from the current year. Stewart suggested that to further decrease the budget the town could lay off six police officers by eliminating one of the eight current patrol precincts.

Councilman Thomas Morr requested during the meeting, that Stewart also submit a five year projected budget for the town, so that the board can take its time planning the budget each year and not just rush through it every fall.

In another hurdle for Stewart’s budget, before leaving for the private sector last year, former town finance director Charles Richardson warned about the county’s intention to issue “chargebacks” to the municipalities in an effort to plug their own budget gap.

Last year, Orangetown paid the county $550,000 in chargebacks and next year will have to pay $700,000.

Scheduled pay hikes next year for police department members will further complicate the budget planning. According to their contract, department members are scheduled for a 2.35 percent pay increase in 2013, and further increases in 2014 and 2015.

There has also been no new contract with the town’s largest union, the Civil Service Employees Association, so no pay hikes are scheduled for those employees. Meaning that any pay increases that come with a contract will translate directly into increased taxes.