Ronald W. Nesbitt

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Oct 11

Supervisor’s Preliminary Budget for 2012

Posted on October 11, 2011 at 8:34 AM by PattiAnn Schultz

Since January, on numerous written occasions I have talked about how difficult preparing the 2012 was going to be. Well, I did not disappoint myself or the Town Board because this has been an extremely hard year to balance the town budget and keep the tax rate stable. For the past four years this Town Board has not raised your taxes and our goal was to work hard to make it five years in a row.

Just like any average family going over their budget at the kitchen table deciding how to spend their monthly allocated pay check, the town budget is no different. The Town Boards meets with the Finance Director and we pour over the numbers (just larger numbers than a household budget) deciding what services we need and how many employees it will take to complete the tasks.

While we have not raised your taxes in four years, we have used fund balance to off set the ever increasing expenses we have been receiving. Health care costs are up over 60 % in the past five years and pension costs are up 37 % or $ 434,000.00 alone for 2011. In 2012 we predict another pension increase of $282,000.00 or 18 % of payroll. Gas prices have been high for the consumer since last year and that again has affected the town forces that use a lot of fuel. For example: almost everything highway uses is gasoline based - asphalt, liquid asphalt for stoning, piping, etc., with price increases reaching 50 to 60 percent in some cases. All of this has an impact on the bottom line of the budget and affects the tax levy and rate.

As I stated no tax increase for the last four years means no additional revenue coming into the town except for a small increase in growth of assessment which this year was less than one percent. Housing starts where very small again this year along with mortgage tax revenue being about the same because very few residents are moving or buying new homes. Sales tax dollars where up about $200,000.00 because of higher gasoline prices (with New York State having one of the highest gas taxes in the nation). Remodeling permits where about the same along with the rest of our revenue lines.

So after many meetings and a lot of discussions, the Town Board has reached an agreement to NOT RAISE taxes again for the fifth year in a row because we hear the residents when they say they cannot afford any more taxes. Right now I am out walking door-to-door meeting with residents and the message I hear from home to another is they are financially strapped and cannot take another tax increase. I am listening to the community and appreciate the stories they have told me about their personal finances.

After going through the numbers time and time again it became evident to me that this year we could not use as much fund balance to balance the budget as we have in the past. It became a stark reality that this budget would have to include some budget cuts of services and employees. As Supervisor, neither one of these two things is easy to do but we just cannot continue to spend money we do not have or to raise taxes.

The Town Board has decided to offer to the Webster Police Department an incentive package for officers who are eligible to retire at this time with 20 years of service or more. We are hopeful that this package will spur at least three officers to retire before January 2, 2012 to help defray some of the budget shortfalls we face at this time. This is a cost cutting measure and should not be looked at as anything but that. The Town Board and I continue to support the Webster Police and we have our complete trust and faith in them; however we must do more with less going forward. The Chief will have to revaluate how the department does certain things and we will have to communicate and cooperate with other police agencies when needed to complete tasks. I have the confidence in Chief Pickering and the Webster Police Department that this can be accomplished without any interruption in service.

When you sit around your kitchen table you have to look at where the majority of your costs are and how you can control or reduce them. The Webster Police Department has a budget of over $5.2 million and the Town Board felt it needed to reduce the dollars appropriated for the department at this time. In some areas the costs for the department are just climbing out of control. For example: pension costs in 2010 were $410,451.00, in 2011 costs were $593,050.00 and in 2012 costs will be at $645,866.00 or $ 20,834.00 per officer. It was looking at these figures that the Board decided to reduce the number of officers thus reducing the costs of the department.

The Police Department is not the only department being hit by the cut backs in spending. The Highway Department, which has lost one employee to retirement and one to health issues, will not be replacing those team members at this time. The Library has cut $50,000.00 from where they stood last year. The Town Board understands that this was difficult for the Library Board of Trustees but we all have to make sacrifices in this year’s budget to maintain the goal of no tax increase.

As you look through the budget printed here in the Webster Herald, you will also see where the Town Board went line-by-line and either cut a little or a lot in a number of other areas in the budget. If you have questions about any particular line items please feel free to contact me about it.

The four Town Board members decided not to take a pay increase this year, but decided that the position of Supervisor should receive a two percent increase as to not lower the value of the Supervisors position for the future. The blue collar employees (consisting primarily of the Highway and Sewer employees) and the white collar employees (consisting of secretarial support staff) will receive three percent raises per their contacts which were signed four years ago. The Webster Police Department, with their recently negotiated contract, will be receiving a 2.75 % increase for 2012. The Department Heads, who are instrumental in running each department of the town, will receive two percent increases in 2012.

Even through all of these cuts, the Town of Webster still has an excellent credit rating from Standard and Poor’s of Double AA. One of the reasons for this great rating is the town does not have that much outstanding in debts in it’s general fund.

Spending in this year’s budget will be less than one percent at .54 %, up $ 109,372.00, and the tax levy will be up .59 %. Again the town tax rate will be $ 4.33 per thousand for 2012 the same as in 2011 and the Village tax rate will decrease seven cents from $ 3.75 to $ 3.68. The sewer rate will continue to be $ 162.50 which has not changed in at least ten years.

Fire district charges, which are not controlled by the town, will be added to your tax bill in January. Fire districts vote on their budgets in October.

Please remember that when you receive your town and county tax bill at the end of December, that despite rumors to the contrary, there has NOT been a town-wide reassessment in Webster since 2004 and none is planned for 2012. Just to do a reassessment would cost around $500,000.00 and right now I cannot think of one good reason to do a revaluation unless you are just looking to raise someone’s taxes higher because their valuation went up. We need to continue on the path of controlling cost instead of trying to raise someone’s taxes on the valuation of your home.

Coming from a business background I have dealt in numbers my whole life and numbers do not lie. This budget was painful for me and the Town Board. However, you cannot change the numbers and we have dealt with them the best way we know how to. Now it is your opportunity to look at the budget line-by-line and make suggestions at the Public Hearing that will be held on Thursday, October 20th at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall Board Room. All speakers will have five minutes to express their points of view on the budget.

I will even quote myself from my Proposed 2011 Town Budget message where I said,
“Looking forward to the future of 2012, I am trying to remain optimistic while being a realist. Without additional revenue, or assistance from New York State (which is highly doubtful), the Town Board may find itself in a position to impose service cuts to all of our departments. The plain and simple truth is that the town cannot continue to support a $20 million budget with services we currently provide without an increase in revenue.”

What I said last year has now come true. The future of services in 2013, as they will be in 2012, will only continue in the future with an additional revenue steam coming into town or the Town Board will have to raise taxes going forward.