Town of New Paltz residents who are budget hawks will probably be disappointed by next year’s preliminary budget, but that’s not because Town Council members haven’t been trying to find ways to keep costs under control. In the end, the preliminary budget to be offered at the November 7 budget hearing will have money for trucks and technology, and some of what’s needed at the rescue squad. All told, it will mean a 6.67% tax levy increase over this year, a hit which can’t be softened by using fund balance money because there’s nothing left to create that cushion.
Town Board members came to the October 17 board meeting prepared to do what they could to cut costs and then found out about a number of new expenses. Most significantly, the next New Paltz Rescue Squad contract will reflect the decline in volunteers helping out with that critical service.
Chief Matthew Goodnow said that his current budget calls for ten volunteer shifts a week, but even filling nine is difficult. His new budget cuts that down to five, but that’s going to cost town taxpayers $111,403.50. Board members did not disagree; the local rescue squad provides a high level of lifesaving service not seen in many nearby towns. They did cast an eye at the figures for Woodland Pond, however. Calls there account for 28% of all ambulance runs, which is far higher than what was promised by the Woodland Pond developers — four calls a month. Moreover, many of them result in declining transport to a hospital, which means insurance companies can’t be billed. Woodland Pond was given a payment in lieu of taxes of $10,000 annually which, in council members’ estimation, does not nearly cover even the rescue squad’s costs. Goodnow agreed that negotiating a deal with leaders of the compound’s board of directors would be appropriate.
Town computers are facing a technical barrier; many of them can’t be upgraded to Windows 10 and must be replaced. To upgrade the town hall and justice court servers and replace computers will cost $47,000, and a stopgap solution to help employees limp along this year would cost $37,000. As of the October 17 meeting, an estimate on converting to a cloud-based system had not been provided. In addition to being necessary, these upgrades could open the door to doing more business online, including filing of applications and paying taxes. That could increase convenience and decrease expense.
Chris Marx brought news from the highway department: the bucket truck is on its last legs and it will cost $132,000 to replace it and other needed equipment. This was not welcome news, but after grilling the superintendent they accepted it.
A public hearing for the preliminary budget will be held on Thursday, November 7, 7 p.m., at the New Paltz courthouse.