Woodstock town supervisor Bill McKenna has proposed a no-tax-increase 2021 budget and has asked department heads to look for reductions to offset falling revenues and expected state aid cuts . The town board will hold meetings this week with department heads to discuss the budget.
General-fund spending for 2021 is $5,45 million, down $84,660, or 1.53 percent from this year’s budget. The highway fund is proposed at $2.41 million, down $119,633, or 4.73 percent from this year’s budget. Both levies are unchanged.
The town’s fiscal belt-tightening began with a hiring freeze in March and a work-share program in May that allowed employees to work part-time and receive the balance of their normal full-time salary from unemployment benefits plus the $600-per-week additional federal benefit. McKenna said those steps were taken in anticipation of reduced revenue.
“Sales tax did take a big hit in the second quarter. Interest on investments has dropped, and it appears the Federal Reserve will be keeping their rates down for some time,” he said. “We have been told state aid will be reduced by at least 20 percent. As the state has a $15-billion budget hole, it is not out of the realm of possibility for even greater reductions. The county is also facing a potential budget gap of $35 million. How this affects us at the local level is unclear.”
McKenna thanked the department heads for “working so diligently with me” to look for places to reduce costs. McKenna proposes deep cuts to youth and senior recreation programming, zeroing out lines for items such as travel, equipment, training and field trips.
“While on its face this may sound harsh, I would point out that the pandemic itself has reduced our ability to host many of these programs,” he said.
McKenna eliminated the purchase of a new police car, This year’s vehicle purchase is just now going into service.
The town has eliminated three part-time positions. “To pick up any short fall from this move, the departments at the Comeau offices are looking at ways they can help each other during their busy periods,” McKenna said.
While some town supervisors have raised their budgets to the cap to build a cushion, no one in Ulster County has. “This move could come back to bite us in future budgets,” McKenna said. “It is possible we find ourselves having to break the cap in the future. I also believe as the pandemic eases and we return to some type of normal that our revenues will return. So too can the services.”
Salaries for elected officials include 2.25 percent raises: supervisor Bill McKenna, $59,228 up from $57,925; town council (Reggie Earls, Richard Heppner, Laura Ricci, Lorin Rose), $11,362.75 each or $45,451, up from $44,451; highway superintendent Mike Reynolds, $72,606, up from $71,007; town clerk Jackie Earley, $53,762, up from $52,579..
Water rates in the 2021 budget are the same at 42 cents per 100 gallons, and the sewer rate dropped a cent to $1.02 per 100 gallons. The quarterly meter charge for water and sewer remains at $17. The Garden Lights and Woodstock Lighting district levies remain unchanged, and the Onsite Sewer District levy is $51,228, down two percent. Public hearings for the water and on-site and hamlet sewer districts will be held October 20 beginning at 7:30 p.m. at 45 Comeau Drive.