Town Board: Town spent less, earned more than budgeted

PETER BOODY PHOTO | Jeffrey Divoli of the accounting firm AVS goes over the 2010 audit with the Town Board Tuesday.

The town’s auditors gave a rosy summary of the town’s financial condition at the end of 2010 in a state-mandated annual report that was submitted to the Town Board last week.

The numbers show a steadily increasing ratio of fund balances to annual expenditures over the past three years, which means “you’re spending money more efficiently,” Jeffrey Davoli, a partner with AVZ & Co. of New York and Hauppauge, told the Town Board at its work session Tuesday. He said that 2010 was “a positive year” financially for the town, which he described as having “budgeted conservatively.”

The audit showed there had been an increase in the fund balance from 2009 through 2010 of $1,077,356, from $6,458,162 at the end of 2009 to $7,535,518 at the end of 2010. Revenues in 2010 were $316,000 over the amount predicted in the 2010 budget and expenditures were $405,000 lower than the amount budgeted, according to the report.

The 2010 budget as planned in late 2009 was expected to result in a $233,000 decrease in the fund balance but instead it increased because of the better-than-expected revenues and lower-than-expected expenditures.

The 2010 audit came in weeks later than planned so was not available for guidance as the Town Board prepared the 2012 budget. The company has apologized to the town for the delay and assured officials the 2011 audit will be on time. The audit firm is paid $62,000 for its report.

The only topic in the audit with some daunting numbers is a state-required accounting of future liabilities for retirees, including health care and pensions. A recently imposed accounting rule requires municipalities to phase those liabilities into their budgets, which Mr. Davoli said currently stand at 4.9 times the town’s annual payroll. A total of $19 million, he said, must be added to the town’s balance sheet over a 30-year period to cover anticipated retirement costs. The number is not out of line with what other municipalities are facing; the ratio range of retirement liabilities to payroll is from 200 to 550 percent, he told the Town Board. The liability is figured on the basis of current union contracts and inflation. It does not include attrition, which Councilman Ed Brown noted will make the numbers more manageable over time.

Also at Tuesday’s Town Board work session, Supervisor Jim Dougherty reported that Town Tax Receiver Nancy Kotula had mailed out property tax bills on behalf of the town, the county, and the school and fire districts. The town’s portion of the bill takes a smaller bite than it did last year because of slightly reduced 2012 budget and a related drop in the town tax rate.

Mr. Dougherty commented that Town Hall was getting “positive feedback” from taxpayers pleased with the bottom line.

The town tax rate for 2012, $2.2297 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, means the owner of a median-priced home will pay $1,427 in town taxes compared to $1,408 to support the 2011 budget, according to Assessor Al Hammond.

The school tax rate, which is included on the tax bills mailed out this month, is $2.8559 per $1,000; other rates per $1,000 of assessed valuation are: the fire district, $.2612; the county, $.2104; the library, $.1576 and the New York State MTA tax, $.0072.

In other business at its work session, the board:

• Agreed to seek new bids for re-shingling the Legion Hall-Youth Center roof because, according to Councilman Peter Reich, the existing roof does not include tongue-in-groove yellow pine sheathing, as expected; it is cedar shingling on lathes. As a result, the job will require a foundation of half-inch plywood that was not included in the original bid specifications. The job had been awarded to R. W. Mulligan Co., whose bid in response to the original specifications was $28,200.

• Agreed to vote at its December 29 meeting on a year-old proposal to allow paved driveways in the Near Shore Overlay Protection District if certain requirements are met, including with some exceptions an engineered drainage plan that directs runoff into the aquifer. No one spoke against the proposal at a public hearing at the board’s December 2 meeting.

• Heard a resident request that the town establish a dog park with fencing to be donated by users. Board members noted that a petition for a dog park was submitted last year. They expressed interest in exploring the idea.