Town Board Takes Up 2014 Budget; Revisions Likely

Rough draft tops $9 million; $7,211,467 tax levy

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

The Philipstown Town Board began work on the fiscal 2014 budget last Wednesday, taking up a rough draft that anticipates spending of $9,055,275, offset by $1,643,808 in revenues, leaving $7,211,467 to be raised by taxes.

Based on figures submitted by town government departments, the rough draft budget represents a 1 percent increase over fiscal 2013 and is likely to be revised in coming weeks. The overall budget has two parts, a general fund for government functions and offices pertinent town-wide and an outside-the-villages category for programs targeted to residents beyond Cold Spring and Nelsonville who don’t receive village services.

Supervisor Richard Shea said the final 2014 budget will not exceed the New York State-imposed tax-increase cap – 2 percent in recent years and 1.66 percent for 2014. “We’re going to be well inside the cap because the budget is going to come down from here,” he said.

He highlighted several rough draft expense lines “that kind of stand out to me,” among them the Garrison Volunteer Ambulance Corps allocation. The fiscal 2013 budget provided $117,434 for the Garrison ambulance corps. Under the 2014 rough draft, the amount would climb to $170,000, a 45 percent increase attributable to hiring help, as opposed to relying on volunteers. “They’re going to go with more paid staff, or may go with more paid staff, which could cause quite a jump in their contractual line,” Shea said.

The Garrison corps is one of two in town. The other, the Philipstown Volunteer Ambulance Corps, based in Cold Spring, would get $194,579 under the rough draft, up 2 percent from the $190,763 of 2013’s budget.

Councilor John Van Tassel said that the town might need to replace the current system by contracting with an outside service to cover the entire town, using the current volunteers as back-ups. “It’s gotten to the point where they [the Garrison and Philipstown corps] are both on the borderline of being paid services” anyway, he said.

He suggested the town might have a single paid corps, “instead of two, which is currently what we have: a paid unit at Philipstown and a paid unit at Garrison. Would it be better for the town to have an outside agency to provide one unit and let the volunteer corps be the secondary units? We might be at the point where it should be looked at.”

A second area Shea highlighted, workers’ compensation costs, would increase from $22,309, the budgeted amount for 2013, to $29,234 for 2014. Already, for 2013 worker’s compensation has exceeded expectations and cost over $29,000. Shea said the higher costs reflect the ongoing bills of workers who sustained injuries years ago but are still treated in doctor visits.

The supervisor asked his colleagues to also “take a look at salaries” and called attention to the rough draft’s proposed compensation for fire marshal services, changing from $5,000 in 2013 to $15,000 in 2014, an increase of 200 percent.

Other projected salary increases under the rough draft include $2,750 more for the highway superintendent, whose salary would go up 3 percent from $92,250 to $95,000; raises for highway department clerks, one of 3 percent and one of 5 percent; raises of 5 or 7 percent for justice court clerks, while the two justices themselves would earn $24,000 each instead of $23,000; and 2 percent more for the deputy town clerk (from $34,240 to $34,966).

Salaries of the Town Board councilors would stay the same, $18,000 each, and the supervisor’s pay would hold steady at $26,000.

The rough draft likewise includes a 3 percent increase for the recreation and parks director (from $59,250 to $61,176) as well as 3 percent raises for recreation department staff members. However, the recreation equipment outlay would drop by 15 percent; recreation contractual costs would be 11 percent less, and the whole recreation budget of $919,870 would be 1 percent less than the $924,974 of 2013. Shea questioned the latter. “I’d like to see that at zero,” rather than a decrease, he said.

Under the rough draft, certain other costs also would dip. For example, snow removal, a highway department outside-the-villages expense, is expected to consume $319,456, down from the $328,766 budgeted for 2013; and the total highway department outside-the villages amount would drop from $2,876,743 in 2013 to $2,840,656.

The town also would save money on lawyers. The rough draft foresees $78,400 in attorney-related expenses, down $200 from the 2013 budgeted figure of $78,600. But both the 2013 budgeted amount and the 2014 projected amount are well under the $101,800 actually spent in 2012, when the town had a regular, long-time lawyer, treated as a village employee. After his retirement, the Town Board hired the law firm of Steve Gaba (until recently, the Cold Spring village attorney) to provide legal counsel.

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