New Paltz Village Mayor Jason West has turned in the preliminary 2012/2013 budget, which the Village Board adopted at its meeting last Wednesday. The preliminary budget calls for a $12,500 salary hike for the mayor, from $22,500 to $35,000; a $1,000 increase for each trustee, bringing his or her annual salary from $6,200 to $7,200; and raising the deputy mayor’s salary to $8,200.
According to West, the $1,473,221 budget shows a .043 percent increase — less than one-half of one percent — and the amount to be raised by taxes will be 4.8 cents for each $1,000 of assessed value. The mayor explained that the overall village assessment is down by approximately $1 million.
Deputy mayor Sally Rhoads praised West and village treasurer Nancy Branco “for their fine and diligent work combing through every worksheet in this budget and being incredibly fiscally responsible with our tax dollars.”
West cautioned that this was the “first draft,” and that after the public hearing and after the board weighs in, “There could be areas where we believe we need to invest more money if it’s an area that will significantly improve our citizens’ quality of life or safety.”
Trustee Stewart Glenn asked whether or not this budget “accounted for the money necessary to update our antiquated computer system, so that our employees are not wasting so many hours trying to complete simple tasks.” The mayor responded that the new computers and the server had already been ordered and should be delivered and installed by May of this year, and that “those funds were in this year’s fiscal budget, so we did not have to add that money into our next fiscal budget.” Trustee Glenn asked if money had been budgeted to upgrade the village website, and West said that it had.
Trustee Ariana Basco said that she was concerned about “several areas in the budget that do not appear to be environmentally responsible.” She pointed to the $500 that was budgeted for paper. “If we are going to purchase paper, I’d rather us utilize a company like the one the campus uses, which is made from recycled paper, unbleached and processed using alternative energy like solar power and biodiesel. I want to look at this entire budget through an environmental lens.” Rhoads suggested that Basco keep a list of “budget practices and policies” that she’d like to see, as well as any others that come forward from the Board.
Brian Kimbiz and Trustee Glenn said that they had “mixed feelings” about the proposed salary raises. Everyone at the table agreed that the job of mayor was a “full-time” job. That said, Glenn noted that he had “several minds on this issue.” In terms of “fair market value for the work and professionalism and service we’re getting, these salaries and these positions are woefully underpaid. The village is getting a lot of quality work from the board, and particularly the mayor, for very little money.” On the other hand, Glenn said that he could not help but think about “the state of the economy and the increased costs of health insurance and pensions we pay for our village employees. You read time and time again about municipalities going under, and if we’re going to be able to sustain the people that work for us, we need to be mindful of our limited resources.”
Both Kimbiz and Basco said that they had a hard time discussing their own salary raise, but were very vocal in their belief that if the village was going to attract a “diverse” group of potential candidates and elected officials, and not “just those that could afford to do the job,” then the increases were necessary.
“I take full responsibility for these increases, because I’m the one that recommended them,” said Rhoads. “I feel it is imperative that we, as a community, provide the opportunity for anyone who feels capable and able to come to this table and represent their constituents and do as diligent of a job as necessary. But if said trustee cannot sit here or think about running for office because they can’t afford it, then that is a disgrace. And these salaries, even with the minimal increases, are hardly adequate compensation for the work people at this table put forth — particularly our mayor, who has done an exceedingly good and responsible job on behalf of our community and our employees. I want the village to be able to continue to attract young people to this table, as well as anyone who feels they can and want to do the job.”
A public hearing on the tentative budget is scheduled for Wednesday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall. The final budget must be passed by April 28. ++