Ronald W. Nesbitt

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Oct 09

Supervisor’s Preliminary Budget for 2013

Posted on October 9, 2012 at 9:42 AM by PattiAnn Schultz

How fast time flies as it seems like yesterday that we were talking about the 2012 budget. Well, 2013 is just 82 days away and the Town Board has to put forth a balanced budget to the residents of Webster very soon. After five years of no tax increases I knew that this year would be a difficult year to try and repeat past performances.

As I have been talking this past year in my columns and publications, increases in almost every area of government have just gone up. There is nothing that we have looked at or touched in the way of expenses that have gone down. Some have said that my constant repeating of this fact is somewhat like moaning and groaning about the issues. My only point is to remind and educate the residents about how government operates with your tax dollars.

Health care costs for 2013 will be up another 12.8% and pension costs for non police employees are up over 20% to $1,270,000. Police pension costs are up to $598,595 for 28 officers. Gas prices continue to stay around $4.00 per gallon and this affects everything that Highway does from piping to asphalt, stone, salt deliveries, tires, oil, lube, and filters all are up in cost due to petroleum being higher than normal.

In the past five years we have used the fund balances we accumulated by not spending all of our budgeted monies to control the budget and not have tax increases. However, the $4.1 million we did have is now down to $3.5 million and with taking out another $940,000 this year to balance the budget, I cannot recommend that we go any lower than $2.6 million in our fund balances.

That is why I am proposing to have a tax increase in this year’s budget. This is not something I want to do and the Town Board and I have worked hard not to, but the numbers just do not line up to balance the budget with a no tax increase for a sixth year in a row. We have had no revenue increases in any areas of the budget except in the sales tax area which is not enough to offset the higher expenses we are incurring.

Last year we laid off two Town Hall employees and reduced the Police Department by offering an early retirement package, but no employee layoffs are scheduled for this year. If any member of our work force retires, we take a long hard look at doing more with less before we decide to replace that employee.

There are a number of requests from our Department Heads that the Town Boards felt were necessary to fund in the 2013 Budget which were not funded in previous budgets.

The Assessing Department will be redoing their filing system with a new state of the art system that will keep better track of all the mandates New York State requires this department to keep on each property in town. The Animal Control Officer will be receiving a new cab truck in 2013 to replace the 11-year old 140,000 mile truck which has seen better days at a cost of $ 24,000.
The Police Department budget is up again $185,000 due to the fact we need to purchase three new police cars, and car repairs on some of the older cars continue to increase. New state mandates on road signs and road striping have increased the highway line by $14,000. A new membrane roof is needed on the Town Hall for $275,000 which we will budget over five years at $ 55,000 per year.

The Highway Department will purchase a new ten-wheel truck with plow for $220,000 which we do every year to keep from falling behind on our maintenance of our fleet. The Parks Department needs to replace a 2004 F250 crew cab vehicle for $26,000, along with a new walk behind lawn mower at a cost of $4,500.00.

Justice Courts will be down $90,000 this year due to the fact all police agencies serving Webster are down in writing tickets this year. Once again this year we will be down in our interest line and in the mortgage income line due to the decline in housing mortgages that banks are giving out. Sales tax income is up due to the higher than nationwide price in gasoline and gasoline taxes here in New York State.

As you look through the budget printed here in the Webster Herald, you will see where the Town Board went line-by-line and either cut a little or added a little based on the need of the department. If you have questions about any particular line items please feel free to contact me at supervisor@ci.webster.ny.us or any other Town Board member.

Even through all of these cuts, the Town of Webster has still maintained an excellent credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service of Aa2. In quoting from their recent review of the town they state, “The Aa2 rating is based on the town’s trend of sound financial operations reflected in adequate reserves, a sizable tax base with above-average wealth demographics and a manageable debt profile.”

The four Town Board members who did not take a pay increase last year will this year receive a two percent increase in wages along with the Supervisor’s position. The Police Department, under contact, will receive a 2.75% increase in 2013 in the last year of their contact. The blue collar employees (consisting primarily of the Highway and Sewer Department employees) and white collar employees (consisting of secretarial support staff) are still in negotiations for a new contact for 2013 and beyond, with anticipation of finishing before the end of the year. The Department Heads, who are back bone of my administration, will receive two percent increases next year.

Spending this year is up 5.32% to $21,434,775 and the tax levy is up 4.75% to $12,470,273. The tax increase I am suggesting for town residents outside the Village is 3.66% or 16 cents per thousand of assessed valuation. For residents living inside the Village, the tax increase will be 8.31% or 30 cents per thousand. The reason for the higher increase in the Village is due to the past years when the town rate was flat the Village rate decreased. Also, the total Village Assessment decreased over $7 million because of a PILOT Program (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) enacted by the Town for the Phillips Village Community project.
The sewer tax rate for the 13,000 parcels that are connected to sewers in the town will go up $5.00 per unit. This increase is due to the high costs of maintaining a wastewater treatment facility along with the costs associated with the $1.3 million to replace the outflow pipe into Lake Ontario and also the $380,000 purchase of a new flush truck. The new Sewer Capital rate will be $45.00 and the Sewer OM (operation and maintenance) $122.50 for a total per unit cost of $167.50. This is the first change in the sewer rate in over 10-years.

Please remember that when you receive your town and county tax bill at the end of December that the town once again did not do a revaluation of the town and there is not one planned for 2013. One huge factor you must keep in mind, which is constantly on my mind, is the fact that Xerox has sued the town over its assessment. Currently they are looking for a $58 million reduction in their assessment which will have a negative effect on everyone else’s tax bill in the future if Xerox where to win the case. This budget printed in today’s Webster Herald does include money to fight the Xerox lawsuit but it does not include any monies to offset the taxes if Xerox were to win the suit.

Fire district charges, which are not controlled by the town, will be added to your tax bill in December. Fire districts vote on their budgets, along with new Fire Commissioners, in December.

I am personally upset that I had to recommend a tax increase to the Town Board and the residents of Webster in the 2013 budget, but I really have no other choice. I have always believed in cutting costs over raising taxes but we have cut so much in the past five years that any more employee or material cost cuts will only serve to lower the standard of services that the town provides to its residents. We tried to wait out the wave of economic uncertainty these past five years hoping the economy would return to normal, but to everyone’s surprise that has not happened and it does not look good for the future either.

For example we all ready know that the health care cap on our health plans will cap at a 13% increase in 2014 and pension costs for non-police and police will increase in the range of 22% to 28% also in 2014. These increases alone will total over $540,000 in increases over 2012 rates for our 132 full-time employees. In simple math, taking the $540,000 and dividing that by the 15,000 parcels in town gives everyone a $36.00 tax increase before we look at everything else in our town budget.

It is now the residents of Webster’s opportunity to look at the budget line-by line and make suggestions at the Public Hearing that will be held on Thursday, October 18th 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.

The future of all Webster services as we know them today will only continue at this year’s pace if the town can not get a handle on pension and health care costs in the coming year. Without help from Albany and the Federal government on some of these issues, I would be remiss to say that Webster residents are going to have to take a hard look and consider lowering the cost of governmental services which cost the residents so much, and which costs are being duplicated here in Monroe County. Without this reduction in costs to the town budget, you can continue to count on tax increases into the future to which no Town Board will be able to control the inevitable tax increases.

Ronald W. Nesbitt
Supervisor