Friday, November 10, 2006

Budget Blog

Last night we held the public hearing on the 2007 budget. Because it is sometimes difficult for people to get out and attend these meetings I am blogging (is that the right term?) a copy of the budget report that I presented. One thing that I forgot to mention in the steps that the Town Board and I are taking to put things in order is that we are also exploring shared services. We will be having a presentation at our next Town Board meeting by the N.Y.S. Office of Real Property on the pros and cons of sharing Assessors with other municipalities. Anyway, here is my report and if anyone has any questions, thoughts, concerns, or suggestions, please feel free to e-mail me at hickmanj @eastfishkillny.org, send me a letter at the Town Hall, call me at 221-4303, or – best of all – stop in. I work for the citizens of East Fishkill and I enjoy meeting with you.

2007 Supervisor’s Budget Report

It has been just over eleven months since I took office and I must say that I am very proud of the work that the Town Board and I have accomplished in that time. Enacting the building moratorium, passing local laws regarding false alarms, policies against sexual harassment, regulating surplus materials, and the many laws that we are currently processing, in addition to working to get the Shenandoah, Brettview, Little Switzerland water projects, as well as the Hamlet wastewater project moving – it has been a busy year. And, yes, we still have a lot of work to do!

Well, it is now budget time, and this is my first budget; so, it is time to talk finances. The Town of East Fishkill encompasses an area of more than 53 square miles, includes over 28, 000 residents, and has a budget that is over 15.3 million dollars. The Town budget covers the Police Department, the Highway Department, the Recreation Department, and the Town Hall departments, in addition to retiree benefits. Now keep in mind that the Town portion of your tax bill is between 9 and 12% of the total tax bill, depending on which school district you are in. Historically, the Town tax rate last peaked in 1998 at $18.07 per thousand of assessed value. From the 1998 peak, the tax rate dropped every year until 2004 when it reached $16.57 per thousand. In 2004, the tax rate rose to $16.70 and then to $18.21 last year. This would lead one to think that the cost of operating the Town fell from 1998 to 2004. But it appears that that was not the case. Now where does the Town get the money to fund the budget? There are property taxes, of course; but also, revenues from Mortgage Taxes, Sales Taxes, and department fees and fines. In the last few years, the Mortgage Tax revenue has been quite large, but it is apparent that the real estate market is slowing (as are the Mortgage Tax revenues).

As the firm Accounting Associates pointed out in the trend analysis they performed for the Town this past spring, from 2002 to 2005 several budget expenditures rose significantly. These increases in the costs of operations were offset by taking money out of our rainy day budget surplus. That is, over the years the Town has built up a budget surplus – unused funds that accumulated and we saved as a rainy day fund. In fact, in 2002, 2003 and 2004, the amount taken from the budget surplus to offset operating expenses was 2 million, 3 million, and over 3.5 million dollars respectively – and taxes were still cut! As Accounting Associates pointed out, as well as anyone that operates a household budget knows, you can’t do that forever. This year we will use $500, 000 of our budget surplus to “make ends meet” (earlier projections had estimated our shortfall at $1.6 million) leaving us a surplus of approximately 3.3 million dollars.

This is why, even though the East Fishkill Community Library has come out of the Town budget, we cannot lower taxes. Our budget proposes a 4.32% tax increase over last year. The library represented a 7.91% tax, so the two together represent a 12.23% tax increase (remember that this is only 12.23% of the 9 to 12% of your tax bill that is the Town portion) – that is a tax increase of approximately $110.00 on a $500,000.00 house.



We need to get our financial house in order, so the Town Board and I have:

a) raised and established appropriate fees

b) changed job responsibilities and enacted policies in the Town to allow for more efficient oversight and collection of fees

c) been very stringent in monitoring the activities of our town professionals (who’s billing has gone down considerably)

d) eliminated many of the non snow – removal sub contractors at the Highway Department

e) have engaged the Town Accountant to use the 20 hrs. of free services to review purchasing practices in town departments for efficiency.

f) are reviewing several operations of Town operations for efficiency and cost effectiveness

g) restructuring of the debt for the Hamlet Wastewater to lower tax rates for that district

h) moving to expand the commercial and industrial tax base


The Town Board and I have been very busy addressing issues that affect us all. We, too, are residents and taxpayers and we intend to provide government services as efficiently as possible. If anyone has any suggestions about how we could perform our services more efficiently, the Town Board and I will be happy to hear them. Thank you.

Respectfully,

John L. Hickman
Town Supervisor

Comments:
To all the residents of East Fishkill:
I would like to say that when your supervisor tells you to come and see him, he means it. When he tells you that your opinion matters he means that too. Most important, he really believes that he works for the citizens of East Fishkill and he shows it. We are very fortunate to have John as our leader and representative. Please in all of our busy schedules,lets take the time to show up at a few town meetings-voice our opinions and or just listen and be informed. Remember,this is our town and its future is in our hands. Thank you John for your continued dedication and hard work.
Respectively,
Deborah McCaffery
 
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