BY GEORGE HOEHMANN
The process of constructing an annual budget for Town government is a tough, time consuming one. It is not a task that I take lightly. In fact, there were well over 70 meetings held with all of our department heads to create a responsible and realistic tentative budget for 2019. Together, we probed every budget line and challenged ourselves to find savings so we can provide an efficient government that the residents of this Town can afford.
In 2016, we had no tax increase. In 2017, we cut taxes. Last year, we remained flat again. We’ve stretched every dollar to live within our means. My goal is to to balance the Town budget the same way you do at your kitchen table.
In the past few years, we were able to pare down the tax bill by paring down the size of Town government. Even then, there are costs that increase automatically and beyond our control, especially those related to personnel. Our Town employees are hard workers and they are invaluable to the operation of the government, but by the time the ball drops at Times Square on January 1st the cost of our non-police personnel goes up—automatically—3.8%. And since 64% of the entire budget is dedicated to Town employees, you can see how hard it is to continue to pass budgets with no increase in revenue.
In the face of that and other cost-drivers, such as inflation in general, the minimum wage increase and other cost shifts from other levels of government, we still put forward a budget that only increases spending by less than one percent (0.95%).
In sum, it is a responsible and realistic budget designed to provide essential services and keep the Town on the path to long term financial sustainability. There are three (3) policy decisions and outcomes that the Town Board will be exploring and weighing as we move toward adopting a final budget in mid-November:
- Retirement Incentive: Considering the high cost of personnel, the Town has offered a generous incentive for many Town employees to consider, which pays them for years of service and for others helps defray medical insurance costs
- Consolidation of Maintenance Staff and Functions: The new Department of Engineering & Infrastructure Maintenance will combine 57 employees spread across six (6) departments into one, yielding an estimated $100,000 in overtime savings
- Adjustments to Mini-Trans: Mini-Trans is a great service to those who use it, but it is expensive, costing the Town nearly $1 million a year to operate. We are looking at making adjustments to the service. I will cover this issue specifically in next week’s column
I encourage you to go to the Town Clerk’s webpage to view the tentative Budget and to attend our public hearing on November 8, 2018 at 7:00PM. I look forward to hearing your thoughts as the Town Board contemplates a final budget.