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Germantown Municipal Budget 2015

Last night Wednesday Nov. 5th, the Town Board held the Public Hearing on the 2015 Municipal Budget. The meeting began at 7:10 PM, a little late as they were waiting for stragglers, Don Westmore and me, who had gone to the Town Hall instead of the Activities Building where the meeting was located.

There were about 5 people in the audience, a reporter from the Register-Star, Police Commissioner Roger Rekow, Police Chief Brian DuBoise, Martin Overington and me.

Supervisor Joel Craig made a brief presentation of the salient facts of the proposed Budget. This year’s total is $1,434,354, a $46,360 decrease in spending from last year. The tax rate needed to fund the budget is 1.44%, just under the allowable Tax Cap of 1.56%. Those of you who have followed the Budget Workshops know that this budget was achieved by a long and difficult examination of the needs of the Town.

Town personnel gained a 2% raise. Reductions from the original tentative budget requests were found in most departments. Board members kept the Police personnel budget set at a 4 person level, denying the Department’s request to enlarge it to 6 positions. However, it does fund the purchase of a new Police vehicle to be paid over a 6 year payment plan. The annual cost of this vehicle was moved out of the Police Department’s budget to a line within the General Government Support (A9785.6 & A9785.7 for you budget searchers).
This placement was recommended by the Accountant.

The budget also eliminated the purchase of a Bobcat, a multi-purpose snow clearing machine that would have been shared by the Highway and the Parks & Maintenance Departments.

The meeting was opened to the members of the public.

Kay Abraham asked why the “lighting District” budget was included in the municipal budget, while the Sewer District was completely separate. She was told that the lighting district fees are in the total tax but only those within the lighting district get that fee included in their tax bill.

Martin Overington said he was one of those property owners who get bills for both the Lighting District and the Sewer District. His property was absorbed into the Sewer District and he had no choice about it.

Joel responded that they were engaging a study of the Sewer District which, hopefully, may let them restructure the funding, along with other possible efficiencies.

Martin asked if expanding the District would lower the cost to the present participants. Mike Mortensen said the current cost of extending the infrastructure might cost more rather than reducing fees. The Town was obliged to develop the sewer system because of health concerns. The population around the hamlet was too dense to have each property have its well and septic system.

Martin asked it they have a full-time Employee caring for the system. A-Yes. Martin says they need more maintenance around the sewer plant area.

Brian DuBoise expressed his disappointment that the Police Department personnel was cut from the 6 positions they need back down to 4. They rely on volunteers [ graduates from the police academy who work for no hourly pay] and it’s hard to always fill in the need by asking volunteers to do the job.
Mike Mortensen says the cuts in appropriations were not targeted at the Police Department, and they are getting the new vehicle.

There was a back and forth conversation among Brian DuBoise, Roger Rekow and Board members about pay rates and fairness.

“It sends a poor message to volunteers.”says Biran DuBoise.
Board members, especially Mike and Matthew, defended their calculations and the final outcome.

Martin Overington asks if the Railroad pays any taxes to the town. ‘I’m just looking for some revenue here”, he says. Answer is no—the railroad is treated as a public utility and is tax exempt. Martin says the gas prices are going down—couldn’t we gain something there?
Joel says the town is on top of that and will be gaining revenue by selling gas to the School system through a new agreement. However, some doubt was expressed that the prices would remain low.

Brian DuBoise asks why are we paying to have the sewer repaired from someone’s property to the main line? He is told that the Sewer District contract, set back when the District began, stipulates that the District is responsible for the lines from the house to the main line.

Martin O. asks about the number of town personnel, and the Board went down the line with the staffing numbers. There was a discussion about the Parks staffing for the summer program. The summer staff helps produce revenue—last year was the best in recent history,
Martin praises the sharing of services, equipment among the neighboring towns. For example the huge black-topping machine is shared among Clermont, Livingston & Germantown.

Discussion ends and Joel asks for a motion to adopt the Budget Matthew says he’s ready. “It’s a budget with that has integrity. Mike Mortensen moves and Matthew seconds the motion. Joel says the only reservation he has is that they have locked in the cost for the police vehicle and that gives them less flexibility than having the ability to deal with the positions in the Police Department. They vote: All Aye
Meeting adjourned at 7:37 PM

ED Note: 1.The Municipal Tax is only a part of your property tax bill, We have yet to hear from Columbia County and the fire department.
2. The tax rate was kept below the Cap by dipping into the reserves in both the General and the Highway fund balances.This has put us below the figure that the State wants to see as reserve balances, but Joel feels that by careful monitoring of expenditures the Town can build the reserve fund back up to where it belongs by the end of the 2015 year. Last year’s hard winter caused a depletion of the Highway fund to a very low level and one worries about what this coming year will bring in winter road conditions. Winter hardship equals high overtime and high material (salt, gravel) costs.

Reported to the best of my ability. Kay Abraham 537-5404


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