“We have our work cut out for us,” said Gardiner Town Supervisor Marybeth Majestic last week, as town clerk Michelle Mosher officially presented the tentative budget for 2019 to the Town Board. “This shows over a 16 percent increase, without doing any tweaking.” Councilman Warren Wiegand called the figure, which far exceeds the state-mandated two-percent tax cap, “a scary big number.”
The draft version of the budget followed the first of several workshop meetings for the Town Board specifically dedicated to discussion of allocations needed for 2019. Majestic announced that she had a meeting planned the next day with a bank representative to review the town’s options for floating a bond to cover several large one-time expenses that loom on the fiscal horizon. Some of these include the need for a new bookkeeping software system, with an estimated cost of $25,000; a replacement snowplow truck, $50,000; a new scale for the transfer station, $8,000; and professional services to design sewer system improvements for the hamlet, $50,000.
Majestic noted that, due to a lack of a system for multiyear financial planning and “not a lot of foresight,” there had been “no expansion of the sewer treatment plant for the hamlet,” and that it is currently operating at 80 percent of capacity. “If we are to have any growth, we need to have the capacity for expansion,” she said. “It doesn’t help for economic development to be in the situation we’re in.”
Besides needed investments in infrastructure, factors driving the 16.78 percent increase in appropriations to be raised in taxes — from $1,908,171 in 2018 to $2,228,442 in 2019, as calculated in this first draft of the budget — include an $11,000 hike in health insurance premiums for town employees, the need to hire a bookkeeper’s assistant and a plan to give Town Hall employees a three-percent raise in salary. As usual, the supervisor said, the Town Board will work toward trimming the tax increase considerably prior to the public hearing on the proposed budget, to be scheduled on or before the Thursday immediately following Election Day. But it seems unlikely that Gardiner will be able to avoid having to vote to waive the two-percent tax cap again this year.
“This is our first go at this budget,” Wiegand said. “I want to encourage people in the town to get involved in this process. Planning the budget is the most important thing this town does every year. And I’m always concerned with trying to keep taxes down…. We need to know what you’re thinking.”
The 2019 budget must be adopted no later than November 20. A link to an Excel file of the tentative budget can be found on the homepage of the town website at www.townofgardiner.org.