BY MARIA BROWNSELL
At the Town Board Workshop meeting in Clarkstown on October 21, the preliminary budget was back on the table. Councilman Frank Borelli and Councilman George Hoehmann presented suggestions on how to amend the budget for 2015. They recommended about $2.3 million in budget cuts to bring the budget into balance.
The two Republican lawmakers listed issues for the town to address, including a $500,000 drain from the reserve fund, a $1 million one time sale who’s revenue is being used in the budget, mortgage tax income that may overestimated, and the impact of the town’s future ratings.
“There are two ways to balance the budget, either raise revenue or cut spending,” said Hoehmann. “The cuts offered tonight are reasonable, realistic and prudent and will safeguard the further fiscal health and vitality of Clarkstown and not further overburden our residents.”
Hoehmann and Borelli propose: a reduction of overtime by 15 percent for all departments, with a possible $920,000 savings; revised bidding practices that could save over $750,000; a staffing freeze and eliminating positions as people retire to save over $500,000; and a one time salary freeze for non-union staff, included appointed and elected officials, and added cuts including changes to vehicle use, with savings of over $100,000.
They also recommend not using a one time sale asset as part of the budget, but to put it in the reserve fund, which will help to preserve the town’s current rating with Standard and Poor’s. They said they want the budget process to be more open to public comment and the format easier to understand.
Any changes to the preliminary budget need to be made within 20 days of issuance. The councilmen urged the rest of the town board and other officials to review their suggestions and be prepared to work together at the budget hearing on November 5.
Another discussion at the workshop was the Traphagen property in West Nyack. After a successful Fall Festival at the property over the past weekend, the future of the property is ready to be decided. The Heritage of West Nyack and The Rockland Farm Alliance are working together to bring the old farm back to life.
“I believe we have tremendous opportunity to revitalize this farm,” said John McDowell, President of the Rockland Farm Alliance. The current farm manager at Cropsey, Shane Hardy, will live in the Traphagen house and take care of the property, while managing the farm. Clarkstown will have a lease agreement with the Farm Alliance, so that the farm can become a working farm again.
“This could be a piece of property to bring history to life,” said Hardy. “It’s a place where kids can learn how food is grown and buildings used to be built. We really think this is a great opportunity.”
Burt Dahm, the president of the Heritage of West Nyack said they are very excited to start seeing some life pumped into the project. By shifting the cost to a public private partnership, the Traphagen property shouldn’t cost the taxpayer money but continue to offer a great opportunity to the public, he said.