Hillsdale keeps tight rein on highway budget

HILLSDALE—At a budget hearing held before the regular meeting of the Town Board this week, town Supervisor Art Baer said, “I’m projecting revenue to be down slightly.”

The Board went through each department’s budget request at the September 16 session, discussing places where spending needed to be reduced or increased. The budget for the Highway Department got particular scrutiny. Highway Superintendent Richard Briggs was in the audience.

Mr. Baer said that the Highway Department had requested an increase of $223,800 over the previous year, but he then recommended an increase of $44,500, most of which would go towards the purchase of a Highway Department truck.

Mr. Briggs said that the Highway Department has often had to make do with used equipment or equipment purchased many years ago. “We haven’t bought new equipment in years,” Mr. Briggs said, noting that older equipment requires more repairs. “You guys act like this is my personal equipment—it’s everybody’s…. You’re not giving me a gift, you’re helping the town Highway Department.”

“Are you seriously suggesting that we increase taxes by a quarter of a million dollars?” asked Mr. Baer. Board member August Sena said that the town had a stronger long-term plan before the economic downturn. “We’re still trying to catch up,” he said. “We can’t do it all at once.”

Board member Carmen Barbato agreed that the Highway Department’s budget for salt and repairs had to be increased, and board member Steve Tiger asked how much Mr. Briggs would realistically need for those two things. “The money is not going to be there. We all know that,” said Mr. Tiger.

Mr. Briggs responded that the numbers would probably be around $20,000 for salt and $30,000 for repairs, but continued to stress that paying for new equipment would be a better investment for the town. “I’m doing the minimum amount of repair, and it’s over budget.”

The next budget meeting is scheduled for October 9 at 6 p.m.

In other business at the regular meeting, the board:

  • Heard from a representative of the Conservation Advisory Council, who said that the emerald ash borer, an invasive species of beetle, is “about to reach Hillsdale…. It could be here already.” The representative said that it is “not cheap” to treat trees with insecticide, but that the town could start by identifying and tagging ash trees on town property. Board members asked about traps for the beetle that some had seen hanging on trees in other towns and were learned that those are pheromone traps, but “the beetles aren’t as interested in pheromones as they are in a nice dying ash tree”
  • Heard from Mr. Baer about eventually acquiring easements for the project to redo the hamlet’s sidewalks. The project will cost $950,000, he said, with 80% paid for by a grant from the federal Department of Transportation’s Transportation Enhancement Program. The town also has $50,000 from the state Dormitory Authority to help cover an additional 20% of the cost, leaving the town responsible for about $150,000. Mr. Baer said that the process can be slow—a similar project in Germantown is still incomplete after seven years. But Mr. Baer said that he is hopeful that the town will be seeking bids for the work by 2016
  • Heard from Mr. Sena that a voluntary expansion of the sewer system would probably cost more than those on the proposed extension would want to pay.

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