Any thoughts of lifting the tax cap are gone as the Glenville Town Board approved a preliminary budget and unanimously voted down removing the state mandate.
Although, the Oct. 5 meeting with residents speaking out against any intention of going over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tax cap still appeared fresh in board members’ minds. Before offering privilege of the floor during the board meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 19, Supervisor Christopher Koetzle restated, to a smaller crowd, the rules for public comment.
“We hope that we don’t have a repeat of last week and try to keep this somewhat civil,” said Koetzle.
There wasn’t a repeat, but dissent over the budget was still expressed by previous board members.
Former councilwoman Valerie DiGiandomenico said board members have the ability to control costs, but failed to reduce costs through negotiations with town employees.
Members of CSEA received a 1 percent increase in 2010, with a 2 percent raise this year and a 2 percent increase in 2012. Highway department union members received a 2 percent raise in 2010 and this year, with the same increase in 2012. Also, police union members received a retroactive 2.7 percent raise in 2010 and receive 1.5 percent raises in six-month increments during this year and next.
“When the town board says it has no control over the mandated retirement costs, I would like you to keep in mind that these contracts are negotiated by the town with the unions, which impacts what the town’s obligations will be,” DiGiandomenico said. “The state is just collecting the debt we incurred by way of the contracts.”
Raises occurred after contract negations were completed with the three unions, which did hinge on health insurance concessions. Roger Harrison, president of the Glenville CSEA, pointed out these concessions after DiGiandomenico’s comments. Health concessions are estimated to have saved the town $150,000 and helped cover raises.
“You are taking pieces of a negotiated contract and using it against [the board] without mentioning that health insurance savings came from the same negotiated contract,” Harrison said. “If you are going to discuss it, you need to discuss it in whole, not take pieces that prove your point and leave out the rest of it.”
Koetzle criticized the previous Democratic administration for leaving contracts unsettled, which resulted in the highest increase in spending. Although, Koetzle said the 2012 Preliminary Budget spends $150,000, or 1.35 percent, less than 2011.
The 2012 budget currently totals nearly $11.6 million and seeks to raise the tax levy by 3.2 percent. Fund balance usage is also dropping again, but at a faster rate than town officials previous planned, which was by 15 percent for several years. The 2012 budget would allocate around $800,000 from the fund balance. The board previously allocated $1.1 million from the fund balance in 2011, which reduced it by roughly $200,000 compared to 2010.
The three full-time positions and two part-time positions are reduced through attrition in the proposed budget and the hiring freeze, initiated by Koetzle, is estimated to yield $147,000 in savings. Other cuts in the budget are $76,000 to the Highway Department’s paving and equipment, $10,000 to the leaf pick-up program while continuing service, $12,000 from non-town run programs and reducing overtime expenses by $10,000.
Earlier, former Democratic supervisor Frank Quinn urged the board to not override the tax cap.
“Do not pass that law to provide the town the exemption to exceed the 2 percent,” Quinn said.
He also pointed out all elected officials were slated in 2012 to receive a pay raise of 1.75 percent compared to 2011.
“You gave yourself a pay raise!” he said. “I’m impressed.”
Koetzle knowingly included such raises when preparing the budget, which some board members claimed unaware of the increase.
“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” Councilman John Pytlovany said. “I certainly believe in this economy that my salary should remain the same.”
Council members Sid Ramotar and Gina Wierzbowski echoed Pytlovany, saying they weren’t aware of the raise. Deputy Supervisor Alan Boulant said he was aware of the raises and “understands why he did it.”
The raise, which the board amended to not include for themselves, gave each of the four Town Board members another $204, raising the overall stipend to $47,372. The supervisor’s raise would have added $335 to his salary. The overall cost for all five members to receive a 1.75 percent raise was $1,151.
The two remaining elected officials salaries, town clerk and highway superintendent, will still include a 1.75 percent raise moving forward.
After the meeting Koetzle said he had “no intentions” of giving or not giving the board a raise, so he wanted the board to decide. The tentative budget, which comes before the recently approved preliminary, is considered the supervisor’s budget since board members usually don’t share input until after it is presented.
“I thought it was the board’s decision — it is their pay,” Koetzle said. “I didn’t support a pay raise at all.”