Town Board begins work on spending and taxes
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
A preliminary outline for the 2013 Town of Philipstown budget calls for a 2 percent increase in spending, up from the $8,815,276 total town appropriation of the fiscal year 2012 to $8,997,052 for the new fiscal year, which begins Jan. 1. The amount to be raised by taxes would go from the $6,954,192 of fiscal 2012 to $7,158,532 in fiscal 2013.
Based on individual budgets submitted by the town’s various departments, including local fire companies that serve Philipstown residents, the budget still awaits considerable further honing and likely paring in some areas. As Supervisor Richard Shea and Town Board members worked through the initial data at a workshop Wednesday night (Oct. 18), they made clear that projected increases in spending in some accounts, including some salary hikes, were unlikely to survive.
The pay of the supervisor and his fellow Town Board members would remain the same as in the present, fiscal 2012 year — $26,000 for Shea and $18,000 apiece for Councilors Nancy Montgomery, Betty Budney, Dave Merandy, and John Van Tassel. Nonetheless, the pay for some town employees would go up — but only if the departments involved get their way. For instance, the Justice Court office proposes increases of 4 to 6 percent for personal and clerical services, the Town Clerk’s office proposes a 10 percent increase — $1,000 — for a grant administrator position; and the pay for the highway superintendent, an elected official, would go from $91,000 to $95,550.
“I don’t see any elected official getting a raise this year,” Shea said.
Board members indicated, though, that as long as the dollars involved do not push the town budget over New York state’s 2 percent limit on property tax increases, they would not be opposed to modest raises for employees per se, determined on a person-by-person basis.
Shea highlighted some of the challenges the town faces, such as in retirement benefit/pension costs under the town’s general fund. “State retirement is up 34 percent this year,” he told his board colleagues. “It jumped up $43,000.” For fiscal 2012, the town anticipated paying $126,420 in general fund state retirement. As projected so far, for 2013 that amount would climb to $169,685. Likewise, Social Security expenses would go up 5 percent, to $106,173 from $100,921, and Workmen’s Compensation would increase by 8 percent, to $22,309 from $20,716.
At the same time, the expected general fund revenues, or income, would decline by 7 percent from the $1,217,773 of fiscal 2012 to $1,127,236 for 2013. The preliminary budget draft contains a few brighter spots in the general fund outlook, too. Thus, total debt service would decline, by 4 percent, from $157,991 to $152,385.
Along with the general fund, which covers many of the essential government offices, programs, and services, the town has a fund for functions needed outside the villages (which maintain similar departments for village residents, such as Cold Spring’s building department or planning and zoning boards). For outside-the-villages needs, the town total under the preliminary budget is $419,508, up from fiscal 2012’s figure of $405,776, a 3 percent increase.
The supervisor also suggested a fallback plan for upgraded Town Hall offices, if the proposed Butterfield redevelopment falls through, and with it, the concept of a new, town-village-county office building. The town could ostensibly move some offices to new quarters at the American Legion property, located behind the Town Hall, with an upgraded facility there accommodating some town needs, a senior center, space for veterans programs, and the judicial court system, he said. “The Butterfield project is up in the air. We can’t wait forever to go to Butterfield,” he said.
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