Public discussion of the village budget prior to the final public hearing would be beneficial to the board and to the public, Village Trustee Vincent Buono suggested, noting that under the existing system individual trustees worked with department heads to develop the budget.
Buono has served on the Saugerties Board of Education, and he recalled that during the budget process, the board held budget meetings, “and they were public meetings.”
By contrast, in the village “everybody is assigned a particular area, like the DPW [Department of Public Works] Fire Department, Wastewater, whatever. I know you guys do a real good job of overseeing that,” he said. He contrasted this with the school board’s schedule of public meetings. “If we had budget meetings, everybody could be privy to everything at the same time, and everybody can help make decisions.”
Mayor William Murphy said if members of the board were to meet privately it would violate the public meetings law, but Buono said he was suggesting public meetings. If the full board were to discuss the budget as it developed, everybody could contribute to the discussion, rather than Vince, Paula and Murphy drawing up the document to present to the public.
“How is that different from the way we do it now?” Murphy asked. The difference would be that more trustees would be involved in assembling the overall budget. “That’s what we have the public hearing for,” Murphy said. “We’re all here, and the public can come in and comment openly on the budget. What’s the difference between what you’re proposing and what we actually do?”
Trustee Donald Hackett said that he goes through the each section of the budget, “and if I have any questions, I just call Terry, or I call Brian and I say, ‘what’s going on here?’ and the guys answer me. I think it’s a good thing that you look at everybody’s budget.”
Murphy said the onus is really on each board member to inform him or her self; “to say, ‘Jeff, let me see your budget; Terry let me see your budget …”
The general feeling of the board was that the public hearing, followed by amendments based on the discussion, serves the function Buono was suggesting, but that more individual discussions, short of a formal board meeting, could accomplish that end. Murphy suggested that each board member should get a copy of all the individual budgets before the board puts it all together in a final budget.
A public hearing on the proposed village budget is tentatively set for April 6, with a board vote on adoption of the budget on April 20, Village Clerk Lisa Mayone said.
Pavement project is completed; reimbursement still pending
Special projects coordinator Alex Wade reported that the bluestone sidewalks project on Main Street has been completed, and the J. Mullen and Sons has billed the village for the work. “The initial invoice, which we have paid and [for which] we are awaiting reimbursement is for $230,397.03. The new bill is for 58,495.08.” Mullen came in way under budget, with a total of $288,892.11; the original estimate was $312,699, “so Mullen did a good job of saving costs with the revisions to our contract,” Wade said. On the other hand, Mullen’s treasurer has been out, so Wade has not received the canceled checks he needs to apply for reimbursement, and vacations for staff at DOT [State Department of Transportation] has held up answers to questions Wade has about reimbursement. Problems with the special software Wade must use to apply for reimbursement have also held up the final close of the project, he said, as well as delays in approving Mullen’s changes and completing a final inspection.
Village election plans
The board approved the procedures and personnel for the village election, to be held March 18. Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. at the Village Municiapal Building, 43 Partition Street. The board also approved Marilyn Daley, Lee Quirk, Arlene Discordia and Suzanne Leblanc as election inspectors. The board agreed to increase the salaries of the election inspectors from $125 to $150 for the day’s work.
“Hasn’t that been $125 for many many years?” asked Hackett. The board agreed that given the length of the day’s work, and increase was justified, and the board voted to increase the salary to $150.