COPAKE–It took two hours of wading line by line through the latest revenue and spending projections, but in the end the Town Board, with the guidance of its accountant, Michael Torchia, whittled an estimated $200,000 budget deficit down to $80,000 at a special budget workshop meeting August 19.
By the end of the meeting, a majority of board members decided to make up the shortfall by borrowing the money and instituting a one-time “negative fund balance elimination tax” based on the assessed value of property in the town.
With spreadsheets and up-to-date receipt and expenditure data in hand, Mr. Torchia took the board through a detailed examination of each line item, asking board members whether expected revenues were actually coming in and whether the cash totals remaining for a list of budget items would actually be spent.
He was looking for any money coming in that might not be accounted for, any budget cuts the board could agree upon and any expenses that may not be necessary this year.
Bit by bit, sometimes in increments of as little as $100 per line, the board decided what the town could realistically count on in savings.
Mr. Torchia also worked out a deal for the town to be able to afford to buy a new computer accounting system, which would make record keeping simpler and permit more bookkeeping to be done in-house, rather than have it farmed out to an accountant.
Once the deficit was lowered to $80,000, the accountant suggested–and Supervisor Reggie Crowley agreed–that the town should make arrangements to borrow $100,000 to allow a cushion in the event the deficit is higher than expected.
But Councilman Bob Sacks disagreed and insisted that more cuts could be found in the Police Department budget. He called the police force “a redundant service,” saying the town doesn’t need police because the county Sheriff’s Office and State Police provide the necessary law enforcement coverage.
Councilman Daniel Tompkins, a sheriff’s deputy, responded by pulling out a map of Columbia County marked with lines that divided the county into five geographical police coverage zones numbered from 800 to 804.
Mr. Tompkins explained that each zone, with the exception of #801, which encompasses Hillsdale, Copake, Ancram, parts of Claverack, Taghkanic and Gallatin, has at least one full-time police agency stationed within its boundaries.
His point was that if the Copake Police Department is removed from the mix, as Councilman Sacks proposes, zone #801 would be exposed to a lack of local police coverage.
While Mr. Sacks praised Mr. Tompkin’s presentation, he noted that Copake Police are only “there” for residents two days a week, and the other five days of the week the town is covered by State Police and Sheriff’s patrols.
With an estimated 60-day turnaround time for approval of a tax anticipation note from a bank in mind, Councilman Tompkins motioned that the board go forward with borrowing $100,000 from the Salisbury Bank, which offered the lowest interest rate.
Councilman Walt Kiernan seconded the motion. During a roll call vote, Supervisor Crowley, Councilmen Kiernan and Tompkins, all Republicans, voted Yes; Councilman Sacks and Councilwoman Linda Gabaccia, both Democrats, voted No.
To contact Diane Valden email .