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New Paltz Town Supervisor reveals $650K budget mistake

by Erin Quinn
November 04, 2010 12:19 PM | 2 2 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There will be a public hearing on the tentative 2011 New Paltz Town Budget at 7 p.m. this Thursday, Nov. 4 at Town Hall off of Route 32. After finding a $650,000 error in her math, town Supervisor Toni Hokanson has reworked the budget and the proposed tax rate increases right now are approximately a 7 percent increase for town residents and a 9 percent increase for village residents. In hard numbers, the tax rate is 7.7516 for town residents -- 0.4984 over the 2010 tax rate and 5.9340 for village residents -- 0.4732 increase over 2010.

“What that means is that our property taxes would double in ten years if those increases stayed the same and that is unacceptable,” board member Jeff Logan said.

Out of the $11.6 million budget, approximately $9.5 million needs to be raised from property taxes.

The supervisor has said that the increase in the tentative budget over last year was in large part due to contractual raises for employees, as well as the New Paltz Police Department (NPPD), state retirement funds and ever-increasing health insurance costs and worker’s compensation increases.

Although nothing has been voted to be put in or taken out of the budget by the board yet, areas which have raised some ire and debate center around proposed salary increases for the supervisor, town clerk, two town justices and the highway superintendent.

At last week’s meeting, board members Logan and Kitty Brown praised Highway Superintendent Mike Nielson for denying himself the raise and for having a zero-increase budget. “He has also started a program of reducing a fleet of vehicles to save money and negotiated a shared-service agreement with the county to pay us for plowing and have them plow some roads for us,” said Logan.

Hokanson has justified what amounts to a three percent raise by stating that those positions have not “received a raise in two years, so it’s really a 1.5 percent raise, which is not even a cost-of-living raise.”

Councilman Logan said he found it unconscionable that the supervisor be proposing raises “when we have people out of work, others living paycheck to paycheck.” He also said he opposed the chief of police getting a proposed three percent raise.

Councilwoman Kitty Brown and Logan have also attempted to find areas in the NPPD budget to cut, but have yet to get the majority of the board to agree with them. Now they’re waiting for more answers from the chief on ways they might cut down on overtime costs.

Logan has suggested cutting the $200,000 dispatching line. The chief has said that he’d rather Logan and Brown and others come to him during the year, see what the dispatcher does, get a better understanding of the service they provide “and work together on ways we might find reductions rather than saying you just want to get rid of an entire line when the budget is due.”

The NPPD budget is approximately $4.5 million.

Village Trustee Shari Osborn added that in her estimation, “village residents are very happy with the amount of foot patrol and bike patrol that is happening downtown. The program is working very well.”

She also asked that the Town Board consider funding some sort of school resource officer program in town.

“I know DARE is gone, but there are many good programs out there that the chief has explained to us,” she said. “I know you are working with the school board about how to pay for this, but I think it’s important that we keep an officer in our schools and work on education and early intervention.”

“If you’re asking us to put money in our budget for an officer in the schools, I will tell you that I’m not willing to do that,” said Hokanson. “We can do what Hyde Park does and that is to have the school district pay for a police officer in the schools so that the money is spread out over all of the district taxpayers and not born solely on town taxpayers.”

The third largest line in the proposed budget is for recreation. At last week’s Town Board meeting, recreation director Chuck Bordino did not have his spreadsheets nor his cost/revenue sheets for the Community Center, so there was little the board could do when they met with him.

“We’ve been able to do nothing with recreation because the budget lines have not been completed nor delivered to us,” said Logan. “It appears that there is $100,000 being put in for the Field of Dreams. But in these times, I do not believe that we can afford to be putting money like that into recreational facilities that will need more money to be maintained.”

Hokanson argued that the money could be taken out of the parks and recreation fees, which are paid to them by developers every time a new lot is created. That money is collected specifically for the Town Board to use towards the purchase, creation, expansion and improvements of passive and active recreation for town residents.

That issue has still not been resolved.

The public that showed up at the last budget workshop meeting certainly lobbied for the board to make cuts and reduce taxes, not increase them, despite an e-mail that the supervisor sent out asking people to come to the board meeting to support the NPPD and recreation -- two budget items she felt were being threatened. Members of the public also expressed frustration that the meeting was scheduled for 7 p.m. on the agenda and the website, but were told that was “an error” by Hokanson and that the meeting was slated for 7:30 p.m. This was the second meeting in a row that had the time advertised wrong.

Logan believes that the board can come up with a zero-increase budget or a smaller increase but that “we need everyone to pitch in during these tough times and everyone is not willing.”

The public hearing will take place at 7 p.m. at Town Hall this Thursday night and the final budget must be passed by Nov. 20.

Comments
(2)
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Joy Roach
|
November 29, 2010
I'm sorry, but I have not gotten a raise in 4 years at my state (Virginia) job due to the economy and budget cuts. So I have little sympathy for people who ARE getting raises. Yes, my cost of living has gone up drastically in the last 4 years, but I have had to learn to make cut backs myself. Kudos to Highway Superintendent Mike Nielson for denying the raise. Seems like Supervisor Hokanson will need that raise to cover her property tax hike.
Mark Newman
|
November 17, 2010
THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG…



While it is very nice that a $650,000 error was caught, the town budget is still unacceptable. What part of 0% increase can the town supervisor or police chief not understand? In addition, I have some other questions for the New Paltz Town Board: In this horrible economy, who in their right mind would give themselves a raise; Who would spend approximately $600,000 of tax-payer money on about 60 acres to preserve "open-space"; Who works in an overcrowded disgrace for a building yet continues to use tax-payer money to fund the purchase of “forever wild” type or other conservation type easements on strategic (special interest group serving) properties; Who would propose building a huge recreation park out by the fairgrounds with tax-payer money; Who would repeatedly attempt to enact restrictive and oppressive wetland laws and wetland "light" laws (e.g. unnecessary and overzealous flood plain laws) knowing that another Article 78 WILL happen; Who continues to collect fire tax that is included in the property tax bill yet still has not paid for the contracted services (about $280,000) supplied by the New Paltz Fire Department (now down to 28 members); Who has six active lawsuits and working on the seventh; Who continues to "ILL SERVE" the needs of the town and residents living there; and Who is responsible for a place where the entire infrastructure is either non-existent or falling apart??? The New Paltz Town Board, that’s who... Attention citizens of New Paltz; our local government is rotting from the inside out, is over-reaching it’s authority, and is on the verge of bankrupting us all while in the process of representing their own best-interests before ours. Please do not sit on the sidelines; come see what you are getting for your hard earned money. We are all busy; however not one person among us can afford to be complacent any longer. Please go to any board or committee meetings and exercise your First Amendment rights! End all of the frivolous spending, call these elected officials out on their lies & backroom deals, and become part of the process not a victim of the process. Copy/go to the following link to see the upcoming Town Board Schedule: http://townofnewpaltz.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=74&Itemid=204

Alternatively, see the following, which I copy & pasted for you from the town website to start your own journey of becoming more informed:

• Historic Preservation Commission

11/17/2010

*meeting offsite this month

• Town Board

11/18/2010 –11/18/2010

Also broadcast LIVE in New Paltz on TWC on channel 23.

• Thanksgiving

11/25/2010 –11/25/2010

Town Offices closed Thursday and Friday

• Thanksgiving

11/26/2010 –11/26/2010

Town Offices closed Thursday and Friday

• Town Board

12/16/2010 –12/16/2010

Also broadcast LIVE in New Paltz on TWC on channel 23.

• Town Board

12/23/2010 –12/23/2010

Also broadcast LIVE in New Paltz on TWC on channel 23.

• Christmas Eve

12/24/2010 –12/24/2010

Town Offices closed

If you have any complaints, concerns, issues, or suggestions for our elected officials contact them and let them know, because that is what they are paid to do:

Supervisor’s Office (845)255-0604, (845)255-0604 x1, (845)255-4084, (845)255-4084 fax

Toni Hokanson,

Town Supervisor supervisor@townofnewpaltz.org

Guy Visk,

Secretary to the Supervisor guyvisk@townofnewpaltz.org

Kristin Brown kristinbrown@townofnewpaltz.org

David A. Lewis davidalewis@townofnewpaltz.org

Jeff Logan jefflogan@townofnewpaltz.org

Jane Ann Williams,

Deputy Supervisor janeannwilliams@townofnewpaltz.org

Let them know you are watching and that they will be held accountable for their mismanagement of our resources. Thank you.

Mark Newman,

New Paltz




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