Rotterdam adopts $21.4M budget

Spending plan to hike taxes 1.4 percent, councilman’s questions cut off

— “If we haven’t learned from last year then this is not a good budget,” he said. “This is to me a slush fund and I don’t like it.”

John Paolino, a financial consultant for the town, interjected after Godlewski’s questioning continued. Paolino said Godlewski was “out of line” in his questioning and he was trying to “embarrass” Every.

“To ask this comptroller about a fund balance right now just says to me you still got a lot to learn about budgeting,” Paolino said.

Supervisor Harry Buffardi cut the questioning off and motioned for a vote on the proposed budget.

“I have never seen such total disrespect for open and transparent government,” Godlewski said. “The mere fact that these people don’t want the public to hear the facts is very distributing. … You not only won’t give me the answers I want, you won’t give them to the public.”

Buffardi, before casting his vote, complimented town officials for presenting a budget without layoffs that reduces fund balance usage while staying within the tax cap.

Earlier budget revisions dealt with payment in lieu of taxes revenue from General Electric. Town officials budgeted revenue from the new agreement for next year, but no money will come until 2014, leaving an $865,000 gap in the budget.

To help cover the loss, the town shifted accounts set aside for a GE settlement totaling around $520,000. It then raised revenues in the sales tax, mortgage tax, safety inspections and fines and fees budget lines, reduced medical expenses and cut highway spending to close the remaining gap.

Godlewski continued to call the mandatory public hearing on the budget “illegal” because of the timing of the changes, though Town Attorney Kate McGuirl previously said she has no concerns. Another public hearing was not held.

At the Town Board’s Oct. 10 meeting, it called for a mandatory public hearing on the budget for Wednesday, Oct. 24, but a revised version of the budget was filed hours before that hearing was held. The board never voted to accept either budget plan before adopting the revisions as the final budget.

McGuirl said the public hearing was not on the revised budget, but rather on the preliminary budget previously presented. She agreed there couldn’t be a revised preliminary budget without Town Board approval, but said such a document “is kind of a legal fiction” in the first place.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, previously said the town’s budget process appeared to not be “conducted in a manner consistent with law.”

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