New Leb wrestles with budgets for town, firefighters

NEW LEBANON–“Nobody’s leaving here happy,” town Supervisor Michael Benson concluded at a fire protection budget meeting held before last week’s Town Board meeting. The town fire department, the Lebanon Valley Protection Association, has been actively saving money to build a new firehouse, upsetting some board members and residents who claim the department has an $110,000 operating costs but is requesting a budget of $240,000.

“We’re giving them money for a building they don’t even know they’re going to build yet,” board member Chuck Giraldi said.

“We do need to fix it at the very least,” replied board member Irene Hanna.

Dan Evans, a member of the Town Board and, since the age of 16, a member of the L.V.P.A., defended the fire department as “fiscally conservative and responsible” adding the money would not be wasted.

“I’m also very grateful for the fire department. I have a grandfather and a great grandfather on the wall there…. I’m also a stickler for money,” supervisor Benson said. He proposed a budget of $178,000 for the L.V.P.A.

Unable to reach an agreement over budget for a new firehouse versus merely covering the bare minimum of operating costs for the department, the board decided to allocate $220,860 for the L.V.P.A., an amount identical to 2015. The vote was 3-to-2, with board members Dan Evans, Chuck Geraldi and Irene Hanna supporting the measure and Councilman Matt Larabee and Supervisor Benson

voting no.

The remainder of the town budget also contained some contentious issues. Town Clerk Colleen Teal, who will take over as town supervisor in January, expressed concern, saying, “We have no long term asset management plan.”

“All of this money comes from the taxpayers,” Supervisor Benson said.

“We need to start taking some pride into our town and putting some money into our town,” a member of the audience remarked.

Board member Giraldi proposed that $75,000 to be put in the unexpended fund for unplanned maintenance required for equipment or other town infrastructure.

The position of bookkeeper was eliminated and folded into the supervisor’s duties, changing the salary from $5,000 to $17,000 annually.

By a 3-to-2 vote the board adopted the 2016 town budget of $1,532,404. With the addition of the funds for the L.V.P.A., the total budget for the town next year comes to $1,753,264. The total amount to be raised by taxes in the coming year was almost $38,000 less than last year, a drop of 3.5%.

Board members Geraldi, Hanna and Larabee voted in favor of the spending plan.

In other news at the November 10 meeting:

  • The town received two competing bids to fix the tennis court, a project that will be budgeted for and postponed until spring
  • Supervisor Benson reported on a noise ordinance workshop held for two concerned parties. The workshop did not help to provide any definitive steps forward for the ongoing conflict, but Mr. Benson said he remains “in contact with both sides”
  • The town health insurance that covers seven people, including full-time employees and their family members, was renewed for 2016.

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