Incoming supervisor vows to review Ancram budget

ANCRAM—The Town Board adopted a 2010 budget that carries with it a .8% increase in the amount to be raised by taxes and a one-cent rise in the tax rate.
Compared to other recent Town Board business, the 2010 budget proved something of snoozer when the public hearing was conducted prior to the regular November 19 Town Board meeting.
Excluding special districts, the amount to be raised by taxes totals $928,200 next year, compared to $921,166 this year.
The tax rate per $1,000/assessed value goes from $2.71 this year to $2.72 in 2010.
The 2010 tax rate is an estimate because official rates will not be set until mid-to late-December, according to the Columbia County Real Property Tax Service office.
General fund appropriations are up by 5% next year from $490,726 this year to $517,625.
Highway fund appropriations are down by .6% next year from $874,600 to $869,525.
Estimated general fund revenues fall by 1% next year, from $255,800 this year to $252,950. Also on the decline in 2010 are estimated highway fund revenues, down by 18% from $148,360 to $121,000.
There is a $65,000 unexpended balance in the general fund and a $20,000 unexpended balance in the highway fund next year.
The town’s allocation to the Community Rescue Squad more than doubles from the 2009 amended amount of $53,982 to $132,000 next year.
Town Supervisor Thomas Dias said the squad provided the town with documentation about its operating costs, noting the squad only has one good ambulance, “the other one is on life support.”
Discussion followed about the squad’s move to institute a flat tax in the towns within its coverage area.
Town resident Jennifer Nickerson questioned where in the new budget does it show the money Ancram will spend on a highway garage. The board has been saying for the last two years that relocation or construction of a new highway garage is a priority.
Board members said funds for any highway garage project would come from a bond and are not allocated in the budget.
Asked for his take on the 2010 budget, Supervisor-elect Art Bassin said by email that while the new budget “seems to keep spending and taxes at about 2009 budgeted levels, there do not appear to be any provisions for dealing with the need for a new garage or new highway equipment.
“In addition, it appears that $35,000 that had been in the budget for the past few years to help build up a fund for capital projects or to help finance projects, like a new a garage or new equipment, has been taken out of the 2010 numbers, as has $7,500 that had always been budgeted for possible swimming pool repairs.”
Noting the doubled allocation to the rescue squad, Mr. Bassin said he planned to “get a more complete explanation” for the increase from the squad.
Though spending and taxes have been kept flat, Mr. Bassin said, “the board may have cut out a lot of items and cut back on a lot of items, which may come back to hurt us next year.
“Once the new Town Board takes office in January, we will do a complete review of the budget with all the department heads and see if the numbers are realistic. If not, we will work with each department to see how we can meet their needs without spending more than has been budgeted in total, by changing priorities and reallocating funds to where they are needed the most,” Mr. Bassin wrote.  
Under the heading of Buildings in the general fund portion of the budget, $40,000 is set aside for contractual expenses, which is separate from heating oil and electricity. No explanation was given for the allocation, but it may be related to the board’s intention to get vinyl siding installed on the Town Hall despite a petition signed by 150 residents, who oppose the plan, and the town attorney’s advice to the board not to proceed with the project.
When Mr. Dias gave a vinyl-siding update during the regular monthly meeting, all he said was that he had given Town Attorney Jason Shaw the contract and initial paperwork associated with the project and “he’s looking at it.”
It wasn’t clear what Mr. Shaw was looking at it for, since he already told Mr. Dias and the board that they failed to follow proper procedures, making the board’s resolution to accept the $23,775 bid to install the siding “premature and improper.”
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Jack Lindsey, who is among those who oppose the vinyl siding, asked Mr. Dias, “Can I assume that no action will be taken [on the matter] until it is discussed at the December meeting?”
Mr. Dias repeated that Mr. Shaw is looking at the paperwork.
Mr. Lindsey again asked if nothing will happen on the project until the December meeting.
“I would say, yes,” said Mr. Dias.
In a related matter, Madeleine Israel told Mr. Dias that the statement of non-collusion signed by the contractor with regard to the project said that the contractor agreed that violation of the statement would constitute a fraud on “the Detroit Free Public Library system.”
Mr. Dias said that he had found a sample statement of non-collusion on the Internet and had apparently not removed the reference to the Detroit library from the document before giving it to the contractor.
When it came time to vote on the 2010 budget, only Councilman John MacArthur voted No. Asked by Councilwoman Donna Hoyt why he cast his negative vote, Mr. MacArthur said he objected to the $2,000 for celebrations included in the spending plan.
To contact Diane Valden, email    


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