Friedman leaks new Ramapo budget

Town Councilman highlights errors, tax hikes, redirected spending

daniel friedmanRAMAPO – The Town of Ramapo’s tentative 2015 budget is out, featuring expected tax increases but also what Town Councilman Daniel Friedman characterized as sloppy and shady accounting.

Friedman, who released the budget online Wednesday morning, stated that the document is deficient in multiple areas, leaves out critical information and includes basic math errors. According to him, the budget’s haphazard construction reflects the inattention to Ramapo’s fiscal needs.

Among the most egregious omissions Friedman argued were in the budget are expense and revenue figures from 2013, year-to-date expenses and revenues for 2014 and fund summaries which break down tax rates. The budget does contain tentative, general figures for revenues and expenses, but no detailed breakdowns.

Friedman considered the lack of detail an indication that the town was in dire straits.

“Hiding actual revenue and expenditure figures-not only from the public but from the town board-underlines the incredible financial trouble the town is actually in,” Friedman wrote in the release.

Friedman argued the budget uses accounting tricks to hide significant tax hikes. Some taxes are expected to go down, but Friedman argues this is due largely to the practice of expense shifting, where surpluses are transferred to pay down deficits and hide issues in fiscally-strained departments.

Consequently, he pointed to an 80 percent increase for “general town taxes” of unincorporated residents, a 14.9 percent lighting tax increase, an 8.6 percent water tax increase, a 12.9 percent sewer tax increase, a 7.6 percent police tax increase, and a 14.2 percent refuse and recycling tax increase.

Friedman also pointed to what he claims is a hidden injection of cash into Provident Bank Park. In the budget, a $629,139 allocation is given to an item marked as “Fireman’s Memorial Drive Project.”

Elsewhere, basic subtraction errors are visible. Under the projected tax levy, miscalculations resulted in a town police levy increase of $2,767,068 from 2014 to 2015 and a special district, omitted, and pilots 2015 levy increase of $1,029,947. With proper math, the police levy increase totals $2,797,068 and the special district, omitted, and pilots 2015 levy increase totals $1,059,947.

Representatives of the Town of Ramapo did not respond to requests for comment by press time.