At a special meeting Tuesday afternoon, Supervisor Gerry Siller presented his budget proposal for 2024 that currently totals $15.759 million, representing an 11.4% increase over current spending. The 2023 budget totaled $14.6 million for a 4.9% hike over spending in 2022.
Mr. Siller made it clear the spending plan has the potential to be sharply scaled back as the Town Board reviews requests from departments and makes decisions about other spending in meetings that began this week, and are expected to continue until late October or early November.
By law, municipalities must set a budget in November for the following year.
The supervisor called for 3% salary increases for most town employees and elected officials, except those who are represented by unions with separate contracts. A few who asked for higher salary increases will get to make their arguments before the Town Board.
Inevitably, there are expenses that will go up, such as health insurance costs over which the town has little control other than to change companies. They regularly seek lower prices from other sources, but it’s rare to find any that maintain the level of coverage at the price they are charged. Other costs over which the town has no control are fuel oil and gasoline. The town has some electric vehicles in an effort to curb expenses, but most of its existing fleet is still dependent on gasoline.
The supervisor’s budget recommends the Town Clerk’s office operate with three, rather than four people. That has been the case for most of this year, and expectations for technology changes should enable that office to continue to operate effectively with three people, he said.
There will be some restructuring between the budget for senior services and nutrition, he noted.
In view of the prominence of water issues before the town, Mr. Siller proposes spending $45,000 for a hydrologist who can also do some data modeling.
As has been the practice under Mr. Siller’s leadership, he is proposing that user and permit fees be assessed to those who need those services, instead of taking money from all taxpayers.
This week, the Town Board began reviewing the budget with an eye to determining what department personnel they need to meet with to discuss their budgets. In many cases, the department budget requests and the supervisor’s budget are identical, or very close.
Typically the budgets for the Highway, Public Works and Police Departments merit examination by meeting with their leaders. In the past, any department that wanted a meeting could request one. Usually, that’s the result of a sharp cut to a requested budget.
Two employees — Town Attorney Stephen Kiely and Town Engineer Joe Finora — have asked for higher salaries from what has been proposed. Mr. Siller said they will be given an opportunity to speak about their requests.