Saugerties played shell game with social service charges

nice-elephant-drawingLast week, we discussed how the village/town police merger impacted the 2013 general fund budget by 7.6 percent and the total tax levy (used for tax cap purposes) by 3.4 percent. In addition, certain personnel expenses increased by over $1 million since the merger. This week, we’ll examine the Safety Net [social services] issue.

Perhaps the most unfair, sneaky and outrageous attack on Supervisor Myers is blaming her for Safety Net. However, as I will show, this situation was a “shell game” created by the previous supervisor and the current Town Board majority to give the false appearance of fiscal responsibility. Unexpected Safety Net charges impacted the 2013 general fund tax levy by 7.6 percent, the total tax levy by 3.4 percent.

As you can see from page 28 from the 2013 budget on the town website (Thanks Kelly!), Safety Net expenses began shrinking in 2010. This is because the town shifted its Safety Net charges to the county tax levy (this is known as a “relevy”). In other words, Saugerties taxpayers were still paying Safety Net, but on their county tax bills. From 2010 to 2012, the town shifted $355,000 in welfare charges to the county. Why would the old supervisor do this? The answer is simple: to manipulate the budget to falsely show a lower property tax increase.

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Due to concerns this could push it over the state tax cap, the county decided to end this practice. In November, the county informed Saugerties it could not relevy the 2012 charge. The 2012 town budget, prepared by the old Supervisor, did not provide funding to cover this expense and the town lacked the cash reserves to pay the bill. The entire Town Board made the decision to pay the charges through the General Fund property tax levy. The amount budgeted was $400,000 to cover 2012 charges and anticipated 2013 charges. This pushed the town over the tax cap.

In conclusion, the facts clearly show the root of the Safety Net fiasco lies in the questionable actions of the old supervisor and the current Town Board majority. It is shameful and dishonest that they would pin the blame on Kelly Myers. In fact, this is another mess she cleaned up that will put the town of solid financial footing in the future.

For more information, visit www.saugertiesgop.blogspot.com.

Joe Roberti Jr.
Chair, Saugerties GOP

There is one comment

  1. Bruce Leighton, Saugerties Town Board

    Up until last year most if not all Towns did not budget for safety net expenses mainly because we thought it was an unfair burden on the Towns the had the most residents requiring assistance, while other Towns paid nothing. The County would relevy the safety net charges in the County tax bill. Last Fall the County under Mike Hein’s direction said to the Supervisors of Towns in Ulster County to start budgeting for safety net because the State cut back its share I believe by 21%. The County said that it would cover the 21%, but the Towns would have to budget for the balance. Over the next two years the County will absorb more each year and in three years will cover the whole expense. There was no shell game, there was no manipulation, no questionable actions by Greg Helsmoortel and the current Town Board majority, because until this past fall every Supervisor in Ulster County effected by safety net expenses justifiably thought that it would be relevied the same way in 2012. Nobody is blaming Kelly Myers for safety net. The only thing the Town Board, including Rep. Jim Bruno, pointed out to Kelly was that she waited until the last minute to act on the new arrangement. Kelly went to all the Supervisor meetings and the only thing she did not do is let the Board know what was happening. We did not know about budgeting for safety net until the week we voted on the new budget. The only shell game here is being fed to the public by Joe Roberti Jr. in his distortion of facts and the truth. His only job is to discredit the people he wants to beat in the next election, even if he has to lie to do it.

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