Letters Saugerties residents should be concerned about budget
Dear Editor, I am one of a handful of residents who were present when town Supervisor Greg Helsmoortel was given unanimous support from our town council members to exceed the 2 percent property tax cap for 2017. I’m certain many more residents are concerned than were able to attend the public hearings.
I wish to share the following budget observations.
Proposed general fund expenditures of $8,694,399 include $6,821,899 raised by property taxes, an increase of 5.25 percent over 2016, but there are a few categories that are standout contributors to this increase.
Employee hospital/medical/ dental accounts for 12.6 percent ($1,099,256) of the budget, up 23.4 percent from the current 2016 budget of $890,745. (My private sector employer has been increasing my required insurance premium as costs rise: now I pay about 37 percent of the premium!)
Police expenditures account for 28.5 percent of the total proposed 2017 budget at $2,478,438, up 5.32 percent ($125,270) over 2016 budget of $2,353,168.
The personnel portion of the police budget is $2,129,138, which is 85.9 percent of the total police budget, an increase of 7.09 percent for personnel ($141,045) from 2016 budget of $1,988,093 (Mind you, the new contract agreement recently reached with the police has a wage increase of 2.01 percent).
The police personnel budget includes a 5.6 percent raise for its department head to $86,381 (from $81,800). To chief’s credit, the non-personnel 14.1 percent ($349,300) contribution to the proposed budget decreased 4.32 percent ($15,775) from 2016 budget of $365,075. Of note, overtime budget of $225,000 is more than 9 percent of the total proposed police budget (10.56 percent of the personnel budget), up 9.7 percent from 2016.
Is this really the “bare bones” budget? What is the explanation for the amount of overtime expenditures? Is there a plan to mitigate this expense?
I can appreciate that some of the total budget expenses are mandated by contracts or legislative entities.
I also appreciate some budget entities were able to costcontain themselves by balancing costs with revenues.
However, most of us are dealing with having to make tough choices and tightening the belt. There needs to be a stronger sense of fiscal responsibility by our elected officials. Hiring freezes, wage freezes for non-bargaining personnel, austerity measures, clamping down on overtime expenditures in all departments, more benefit cost-sharing and decrease in non-essential spending could help trim $300,000 and keep us close to the 2 percent tax cap.
I say let Saugerties grow gracefully and within its means, not grow recklessly. Michelle Numssen