Supervisor-elect Kelly Myers won’t take office until next year, but she’s already making budgeting recommendations, including an increase in the supervisor’s $35,000 salary.
The job is defined as part-time, but Saugerties, as the largest town in Ulster County, should be considering a full-time supervisor, said Myers, with a pay rate that reflects the position. “I believe we’re the largest employers in Saugerties, and yet this position is a part-time position and it’s funded as a part-time position,” said Myers. “[The supervisor] makes almost $4,000 less than employees at the animal shelter.”
Town Board members earn a $10,000 stipend, a number which has not changed in several years.
Myers made many other suggestions at the town’s budget hearing, including reducing police overtime and increasing the salary of the highway superintendent. She believes the town’s assessor is overpaid, and should not receive the raise included in this year’s budget.
“The assessor received raises four years in a row, yet other department heads did not receive raises,” she said. “A lot of people in the community are very dissatisfied with the assessor. The raise that is proposed for him is $3,122, and I would ask the board to reconsider that.”
The assessor’s salary is $63,378 in the current budget, and is proposed to increase to $66,500, or about 5 percent.
The Highway Superintendent, on the other hand, is underpaid, Myers said. “Currently that pay is at $53,258, which is $10,000 less than the village department of public works supervisor, and he also has additional employees and responsibilities.” She asked that the board consider a raise for the highway superintendent.
Myers questioned the increase in full-time police officers’ salaries, excluding the chief, from $1,030,000 to $1,205,500, asking how many additional officers that represented. Councilman Fred Costello explained that part of that is a shift of $50,000 from the school resource officer (SRO) line to the regular police line. The SRO line is now zero. The department also promoted a sergeant to lieutenant, he said.
The item that concerned her most was the amount allocated for police overtime, Myers said. This figure jumped from $175,000 to $250,000; the budget shows that the full $175,000 has already been spent. Myers asserted that the city of Kingston has budgeted nothing for overtime; “they are not planning to have any.” She suggested it would make more sense to hire more officers if the coverage is needed. Myers also questioned the amount spent on firearms and supplies.
Bring back the planner
While Myers suggested many cuts in the budget, one expense she felt should be restored was the planner. When planner Jeremy Kane left for another position in December, 2010, he was not replaced; the town contracted with planning consultant Dan Shuster instead. Citing a need for business and job development, Myers said funding for the position, which had been budgeted for $43,775, should remain in the budget. “I received three calls this week about people who want to come to Saugerties and do business here. I was delighted to receive those phone calls, and I think it’s really important to have a town planner,” she said.
The budget for elections in 2011 was $25,000. It increases to $96,206 in 2012. “It’s my understanding that this is an unfunded mandate, but that’s an unreasonable amount to spend on elections,” Myers said. While she recognizes that the cost of elections is driven by mandated positions and activities, “that is an unreasonable amount to spend on elections, and perhaps there is something more we could do with that budget line.”
The central data processing budget is $59,000 this year, with $63,800 proposed for next year. That budget request includes $21,000 for equipment leasing and $20,000 for maintenance contracts; “I don’t know if it would be better for the town to purchase the equipment or continue to lease, but that’s something we should be looking at,” Myers said.
Myers questioned the budgeting for garbage collection, which was budgeted for $4,000 this year, but the actual expenditure was just over $9,000. Given that the amount budgeted for next year is $2,000, “it looks like it was $7,000 under-budgeted.”
Myers’s questions were not related solely to the proposed 2012 budget. She questioned the increase in employees’ retirement benefits between 2010, when it was $184,173 and 2011, when it was $441,005, or more than double. The amount budgeted for 2012 is $414,076, a reduction of 6 percent. She suggested the board consider a change of provider.
Budget less for committees
The Conservation Advisory Council and the Historic Preservation Commission each spent far less last year than they were budgeted for, and the board should consider budgeting less for both these boards, Myers said. In the NIMS (National Incident Management System) and GIS (Geographic Information System) planning budget, spending last year was zero, yet the budget calls for $7,000 in the coming year, while consultant fees for planning are $22,650 in the requested budget, although spending so far this year was $15,000.