CHATHAM–The Village Board, like other village boards in the county, is moving forward with the 2020-21 budget, even though members can’t meet in person and village elections have been postponed until at least June. Village budgets start on June 1 and must be submitted to the state in April.
The Chatham Village Board held a budget workshop April 9 and another one April 13 before their regular meeting. They also held a public hearing on the budget April 15. All of the meetings were held on video conference call, through the Webex platform. The board will meet again to vote on the budget April 29. Information on the board meetings can be found at the village website, along with a the proposed budget, at https://villageofchatham.com/
At the April 13 budget workshop both Mayor John Howe and Village Treasurer Robert Patterson said the biggest unknown to the village revenue is sales tax and that could mean $100,000 less funding in the proposed budget.
Mayor Howe praised village department heads for making cuts in their departments and called this a “bare bones” budget.
The heads of each department—Police, Public Works and Fire Departments, the village courts, the building inspector and the town clerk–were on the April 15 call.
‘We’re going into the unknown.’
Mayor John Howe
Village of Chatham
“John and the board have been completely on top of it,” Mr. Patterson said of the budget process. He said the state has not changed the dates on when the budgets are due but have said, “Get it in as soon as possible.”
One place the mayor said the board could find funding for the general budget was by cutting the $10,500 the board gives to the Morris Memorial every year for youth programs. Mayor Howe said there were some question about the “legality” of awarding the money to the Morris, which is run by a Morris Memorial Association at the building on Park Row. The building hosts a free afterschool program for local children, has a basketball program for kids and is open for seniors to use the gym and track. The Family Resource Centers of Columbia County, a not-for-profit playgroup for preschoolers and their caregivers, rents space in the building as well.
“It pains me to have to do this,” said Mayor Howe of cutting the funding. He also said, “we can’t be funding” the Morris youth program, since it is not a village program. Village Trustee Peter Minahan, who said he talked with the Morris Director Michael West about the funding, recommended that the board should revisit the funding down the road. At the meeting on April 13 all five board members voted in favor of cutting the funding for the Morris.
At the budget hearing April 15, Mayor Howe said he had already moved that $10,500 into the budgets for the DPW, police and Fire Department lines.
Mayor Howe again said the department heads found ways to make cuts in their budgets. Trustee Minahan, the village police commissioner, said he looked at the police budget and, “It’s down to nothing.”
“We’re going into the unknown,” said Mayor Howe, and he said the board can revisit the budget in the coming months if revenues change.
Mr. Patterson, who is transitioning out of being the treasurer but will remain in a bookkeeping and accounting role, said that the village was very much on top of the budget and when the pandemic happened, “It’s not like we skipped a beat.”
The village clerk will take on the duties of treasurer, which is a savings to the village. The proposed 2020-21 budget is currently about $1.09 million for the general fund with another $349,000 in water and $392,000 in sewer costs.