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Letter: Ballston budget, process fails taxpayers

Editor, The Spotlight:

The 2013 preliminary budget submitted to the Ballston Town Board is not balanced and calls for spending $435,000 from our town reserves. We need to adopt a more balanced approach to annual spending if we are to continue to provide vital services to town residents with no town tax and no highway tax.

The 2013 preliminary budget submitted to the Ballston Town board calls for spending $435,000 in town reserves. Our current 2012 budget has $319,000 in reserve spending. Our town reserve balance as of 12/31/2012 is about 950,000 which shows that if continue to spend at current levels our reserves will be depleted in a few short years. Saratoga County and the Town of Milton are examples of local governments who used reserve funds in past years to balance their budgets. These local governments face very difficult choices each year because they have no reserves in difficult economic times.

The lack of current financial information is another challenge in the Town of Ballston. Since the Supervisor terminated the bookkeeper last November, the Supervisor has not been able to provide any financial results to the town board. In 11 months the town has not completed the 6 weeks of accounting work needed to close the books for 2011 let alone provide any 2012 year-to-date financial results. The Supervisor, who is also the budget officer, admitted she is “pretty much running blind” during a budget workshop and does not know the current status of town reserves. We should not be proposing reckless reserve spending when we do not know the status of town finances or available reserves.

The solution to this problem is not difficult. We need to adopt a contingency budget where we divide common day-to-day expenses from our larger discretionary budget items. My analysis of the budget shows that we can easily budget for day-to-day expenses without drawing from reserves. We also should have some extra revenue to fund some contingency items on a priority basis. As we sort out our town financial reporting, see the trend in sales tax revenues and get a feel for snow removal costs over the winter we can then determine what contingency items should be funded. It is just too difficult in October to accurately predict where we will be in May. This approach provides our residents with all town services, preserves vital reserves and allows us to fund needed improvements. This is a balanced and responsible approach to the budget process.

William Goslin

Councilman, Ballston Town Board

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