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Original proposed tax hike lowered: Town Board sets public hearing on budget

On Tuesday, Town Board members spent much of their sixth budget review meeting on revenues, looking for money to offset spending.

All in all, the work board members have done appears to be nearing the point where an original 5.6% increase could be 3.6% or less.

When Supervisor Gerry Siller presented the first draft of a budget plan in September, he said he’d been conservative in estimating revenues. Still, board members found places where they could responsibly estimate higher revenues, some based on money that’s been earned this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic wrecking havoc with other revenue sources.

Other areas provided an opportunity to raise more in revenues through some increased fees, many of which will go to contractors who, Public Works Commissioner Brian Sherman said, haven’t been paying enough to cover costs of materials they bring to the Recycling Center.

There’s also likely to be an increase in the price of town garbage bags.

Town officials are hoping the Federal Emergency Management Agency might offset up to 75% of what’s been spent in response to the pandemic. But there’s no guarantee that money will be forthcoming, or when it might flow to town coffers.

A Nov. 4 public hearing on the budget will be posted on the town’s website so taxpayers can review it and prepare their questions and suggestions to the board.

Changes can be made following the public hearing.

Mr. Siller has been pleased with avoiding any loss of town jobs this year by reassigning some employees to work at different town jobs than what they were doing prior to the pandemic.

Deputy Supe offers budgeting lesson

In the course of the budget review, Deputy Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams explained aspects of handling government spending compared with methods used in business.

Among them was an explanation of why some money left in a particular department or committee budget gets to roll over to the following year, while other money reverts to the town fund balance, some of which is used each year to offset tax hikes.

Money encumbered, such as funds the Water Quality Improvement Advisory Board sets aside for payments to upgrade septic systems, or larger projects, stay in place.

Another example is the Green Options Committee, a recipient of a $5,000 grant, which is allowed to keep that money for later use.

But most departments and committees with unexpended money at the end of a fiscal year see it returned to the fund balance, and committee chairs and department heads have to justify their budgets for the next year.

As soon as numbers are released on the projected budget for 2021, they will be posted to the town website and carried by the Reporter.