A time bomb has been places in the hands of the current town board. Because of miscalculations in the appropriated fund balance column of the tentative town of Woodstock budget for 2012, the town board is thrown into a most difficult situation. The board that was caught mostly unawares when the same sort of thing happened in 2011 and was criticized for not being involved enough in the town budget process, leaving it all to the supervisor, is now forced to pay attention in the waning hours of the process for 2012, as it will have to make some very tough decisions. Current supervisor, Jeff Moran suggests closing down the town dispatch operation, saying that it is a redundant arm of the county system, and there is clear overlap there. Or you’ll have to find other cuts in a budget that has allegedly had all the fat scraped from its guts. Or live with a fund balance for emergencies far below what the state says you should have. Then there is the final option, the explosive one, politically, and that is to override the state’s new shiny tax cap, something that will take three votes on the town board.
How’s that tax cap doing, anyway? Well, it’s been tough. The county executive has proposed a budget that makes it — depending on the county legislature’s willingness to sell Golden Hill Health Care Facility (see Page 7) for $8 million that he’s plugged into the revenue column. Where he gets the $8 million from if he can’t make the sale is yet to be scoped out. Shandaken’s got no tax increase at all, and nobody seems to be complaining. Onteora, which collects better than 60 percent of the property taxes around here, and doesn’t have to produce the budget that meets the cap until spring, is having presentations and serving up material about how disastrous it will eventually be.
Now the pols don’t have to worry about the school board…its budget is decided by a vote of the people. On the county level, overriding the tax cap to allow it to keep Golden Hill, for instance, would take 20 votes of the 33 members, fifteen of whom have already voted against spending the money to fix the facility.
But on the town level, an override can be reached. Three votes. Three brave, lion-hearted, perhaps foolhardy, perhaps (depending on your point of view) misguided local politicians. Two on the town board won’t be continuing (Supervisor Jeff Moran and councilwoman Terrie Rosenblum). Two are safe for two more years (Bill McKenna, Cathy Magarelli). And only one, Jay Wenk, is running this year. The possibility of reaching three exists.
What of the other options? Doing away with dispatch? You’d have to do it with little to no notice to the townspeople who work there. There’d be no gradual fade out. Could it work? Probably. But that’d be harsh, and perhaps too hasty. Find other cuts? OK, go to it. You got a week or two. Keep less of a fund balance? Talk about a tightrope and ever more unpredictable weather… Override? Might be the best option for the town, but not for political careers. ++