Cuts to GVFC and highway department; hikes to GVAC, senior citizen programs
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Philipstown’s Town Board Wednesday (Nov. 20) unanimously approved a $9,019,149 budget for 2014, with $7,165,341 to come from taxes and $1,653,808 in expected revenue (plus another $200,000 in unspent balances), producing an overall increase from fiscal 2013 of $35,062, a zero percent rise.
The Town Board worked on the budget all fall and the ultimate tax share is $46,126 less than that shown in the rough draft of early October.
Some departments received cuts. The Garrison Volunteer Fire Company (GVFC) slipped 1 percent from 2013, from $603,255 to $596,294 and the town highway department saw a 2 percent decrease, from $2,876,743 to $2,829,492.
The North Highlands Fire District 2014 budget will be $723,013, up a bit (zero percent) from the 2013 figure of $720,274. The Cold Spring Fire Company will get $63,954, a 2 percent increase from 2013’s amount, $62,693. The Continental Village allocation is $255,200, up 2 percent from $251,040 in 2013.
The board increased the amount for the Garrison Volunteer Ambulance Corps by 45 percent from 2013 to $170,000 – up from $117,434 – due to use of paid staff to provide round-the-clock coverage.
Likewise, transportation-related services for the elderly went up 11 percent, from $26,000 to $28,900, paying for bus rides for shopping for senior citizens in Continental Village, similar to the assistance provided from Cold Spring for seniors without cars. Cultural institutions gained, too: support for the Desmond-Fish Library climbed 36 percent, from $11,000 to $15,000; and the Putnam History Museum share went from $5,000 to $7,500 – only $2,500 in terms of dollars but a 50 percent increase.
Except for the two town justices, whose annual pay went from $23,000 to $24,000, elected officials did not get raises. Supervisor Richard Shea will again earn $26,000 in basic yearly pay and the four councilors – Betty Budney, Dave Merandy, Nancy Montgomery, and John Van Tassel – will again draw $18,000 each. Highway Superintendent Roger Chirico will take home $92,250, as in 2013.
Like the justices, the justice court system got an increase overall, up from $134,5oo to $145,500, or 8 percent more.
Nonetheless, the amount spent on lawyers dipped, from $78,600 to $60,000 for 2014, a decrease of 24 percent from 2013 but a cut of about 40 percent from the $101,800 of the 2012 budget, the last year the town government kept a lawyer on an essentially permanent basis for staffing Town Board meetings and handling related tasks. “I think we did pretty well this year on our own,” Shea said. As needed, the town now relies on the outside services of the Drake Loeb (et al) law firm, which assists various boards.
The budget assumes a slight increase in total revenue, from $1,650,520 in 2013 to $1,653,808.
In terms of taxes, “we’re well within meeting the cap” imposed by New York State on tax hikes, Shea announced. And from this point, the budget “cannot go up. It can only go down,” he said.
Shea noted the ongoing talks with the Garrison firefighters over financial matters and their interest in a new tanker truck and new chief’s truck, as well as “a lot of purchases.” The board decided that “with a desire and actual need for a new tanker there would have to be some give-back on things. We thank the fire company for all their service. But in looking at a 1 percent decrease, I don’t think anything is going to be missing down there. One thing we did pull out was the iPads,” he added, then immediately amended his statement: “We’re not pulling out anything. It’s a dollar amount. It’s going to be a discretionary call of the department – how they allocate some of these funds.”
Councilor Dave Merandy commented on the relatively low salaries paid many town employees despite their skill and long hours put in.
“We do appreciate” their efforts, Shea agreed. “It can safely be said nobody is getting rich working for the Town of Philipstown.”