Chatham’s new budget costs $38k less

CHATHAM–The Town Board passed a 2018 budget last week of $2,896,695, including the General Fund and the Highway Department. The total amount is a slight decrease from the current budget of $2,935,013.

Supervisor Maria Lull made a statement during the November 16 meeting about the budget, saying that a position for maintenance work at Town Hall would be eliminated in the new budget and those duties would be outsourced. The town assessor will remain at his current salary, which was cut a few thousand dollars last year to be about the same amount as the county would have charged the town to provide assessor services.

The board voted to increase the tuition for the town summer camp at Crellin Park and for swimming lessons at the pond. Summer camp will cost $125 per child for town residents and $250 per child for non-town residents. Last summer the program cost town residents $85 and out-of-town residents paid $175, with discounts for siblings. There will also be an increase in amount the town charges the Town of Kinderhook summer recreation program to use the pond.

Ms. Lull mentioned the tuition increases in her statement, saying it was “to cover additional minimal wage increases and gradually get the program self-sustainable.” Councilman John Wapner said the town’s Recreation Committee had decided to move forward with creating a not-for-profit entity to raise money for scholarships for Chatham area children to attend the camp.

As for taxes, Ms. Lull said that 2018 budget is below that state mandated tax cap of 1.84% “with a minimal tax increase of 1.017%.”

“This represents a tax rate of $3.29 per thousand of assessed value or an increase of $0.04 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. For the average homeowner with an assessed value of $200,000, this represents an annual increase of $6.83 for the combined General Fund and Highway Fund,” she said. The figures apply to residents whose property lies outside the village.

For Village of Chatham property owners in the town the tax rate is $1.33 per thousand of assessed value “or a decrease of .32 cents.” Roughly half the village is in the Town of Chatham; the other half is in the Town of Ghent.

Local fire companies received increases in the funds they receive from the town. The amounts that town taxpayers pay to the volunteer fire companies are listed separately from the General and Highway funds.

The Village of Chatham Fire Department will receive about $1,500 more, bringing the total contribution from the town to $36,790. Tri-Village Fire Company, which receives $199,130 from the town, saw an increase of $5,330. Red Rock’s contribution from the town increased by $887 to $10,387 and Kinderhook Lake’s went up by $637 to $26,102. East Chatham stayed at the same amount as last year–$75,198.

Supervisor Lull told her board at the meeting, “Thank you everybody for your help.” She wrote in her statement, “I wish to thank our Budget Officer Tammy Shaw and Bob Balcom, the chair, and all the members of the Citizens Finance & Planning Committee for their many hours of work; our department heads for exercising fiscal constraint in preparing their budget requests; and Mike Bucci, CPA, and Lisa Gill of Pattison, Koskey, Howe and Bucci, for preparing the Town’s accounts.“

Councilman Wapner voiced his concerns over keeping the assessor at the lower rate of pay. He pointed out that the assessor helped the board when there was budget issue last year by cutting his salary but now the board needed to raise it.

“I don’t think it’s worth the $4000 to $5000 we save,” he said of the cut in the assessor’s pay.

The board passed the 2018 budget 4 votes to 0. Councilman Henry Swartz did not attend the meeting.

Also at the November 16 meeting:

• Town Attorney Sal Ferlazzo said that he was hoping to have a meeting with the state Department of Transportation and CSX about the Albany Turnpike Bridge. CSX replaced the bridge but now the sightlines are an issue and several residents have come to the board with safety concerns about the bridge. The town planned to put a traffic light on the one-way bridge last year but the plans have been held up by DOT. Resident Adelle Kleiman-Levine sent a letter to the state about what dangers created by the bridge crossing. The DOT responded to her letter with their own letter that Ms. Kleiman-Levine shared with The Columbia Paper.

The DOT letter says that the state “is aware of the condition existing at this location and is working with the Town of Chatham to review the plans for the town’s project.” Ms. Kleiman-Levine said she also talked to DOT and they could not tell her why the project is not moving forward.

“Somebody is going to die,” she said of the bridge crossing, and asked the board to be more proactive about the issue. “It can’t just be me,” she said.

Mr. Ferlazzo told Ms. Kleiman-Levine, “Your letter was very helpful.” He added that he hopes to meet with the state and CSX by the end of the month. “We have their attention,” he said

• The board heard a report from the town’s Roads Committee about creating a town-wide roads map. Committee member Rick Werweis said that there are private roads that are currently being maintained by the town because there is no definitive map. He said the committee planned to present the board with several proposals to adopt, including having the highway superintendent sign off on projects that go before the town’s Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.

The next regular Town Board meeting will be Thursday, December 21 at 6 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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