Town Supervisor Kelly Myers is being praised for delivering an on-time tentative budget that would cut the tax levy 1.4 percent. But a veteran town councilman isn’t buying it.
“It’s not a real budget,” said Councilman Fred Costello. “This is designed in an election year to have a headline, but none of us should have confidence that this is what the final budget will look like. My guess is that there may be expenses and costs that were left out. That was our experience last year.”
In 2012, after passing its budget, the town had to amend it several weeks later, adding $400,000 in social services charges not included in the original, raising the tax increase from under 2 percent to over 6 percent. (Myers counters that she provided a list of cuts, including numerous personnel and closing the transfer station, which the board turned down.)
Costello said in past years, board members began working with the supervisor and department heads over the summer. This year, he said, board members weren’t involved. In fact, Costello said he didn’t even see the budget until the Wednesday, Oct. 2 board meeting, while local media and the Republican Party chairman had copies sooner.
But Myers has a different view. She said the budget process Costello yearns for was flawed and resulted in unnecessary spending. In preparing last year’s budget, Myers said she met with board liaisons and department heads and then collected “wish lists” before instructing the board to “whittle it down.”
“We ended up with an increase,” Myers said. “This year, I did something completely different. I reached out to the department heads, got their budget worksheets back, and I reviewed them with the town accountant.”
Myers attributed much of the reductions to:
- Attrition (not replacing six employees who left)
- The county’s follow through taking over a greater share of social services costs. Saugerties’ bill is down from $400,000 this year to $135,000 in the proposed budget.
- Shopping around for better deals on health insurance and contracts, like the town phone system.
- No raises for town employees (except where mandated)
- Town department heads using funds efficiently