The town did some slicing and dicing last week, reducing the tax levy increase by half to 4.4 percent on an $11.2 million budget proposal, and offering more possible cuts that would get it under the two percent tax cap.
Supervisor Kelly Myers put $394,000 in cuts on the table last week. Of those cuts, the board would need to select $225,000 to get the tax increase under two percent. Implementing all the cuts would bring the tax levy increase to around zero percent.
The biggest cut on the table is closing the town’s transfer station, which has been losing money for years. In the most recent year, operating costs were $500,000 and revenues were $400,000, so closing it would save the town $100,000. Other possible reductions: one police department position ($70,000); one assessor’s office staff position ($60,000); one highway department position ($60,000); $21,000 by reducing the police department budget by one percent; $13,000 through hiring a part-time technology specialist for 20 hours per week at $20 per hour; $8,000 by reducing the parks budget by one percent; and hiring a grant writer ($7,000).
A public hearing on the budget was held Nov. 7, and the final vote is planned for Nov. 19.
The transfer station
Of all the possible cuts, the transfer station would probably be the most apparent to the most residents. Myers attributed recent losses in its revenue to residents getting better at recycling — the station makes more money on trash. More residents have turned to curbside pickup, rather than packing up the pickup and hauling it out to West Saugerties.
Myers said possible changes to the county’s RRA (Resource Recover Agency) would influence the town’s decision. It’s possible the RRA will implement “flow control” and require private waste disposal companies to pay higher fees. If that happens, they’ll likely pass the costs on to consumers, and more residents would decide to use the transfer station instead, returning the operation to solvency.
The town has already decided to increase the fee of the annual permit from $15 to $25, which will bring in an additional $50,000, said Myers. If the transfer station does close, Saugerties residents would probably be able to use a facility in the town of Ulster. Woodstock residents, who also use the Saugerties station, are quite a bit farther away and would probably suffer more.
The board voted against proposed salary increases for the supervisor and highway supervisor. Myers had sought a $15,000 raise, from $35,000 to $50,000, in lieu of taking the town’s benefits package, saving the town several thousand dollars. In her first year, she didn’t take benefits; instead, her family was covered by her husband’s plan, which carries monthly premiums of several hundred dollars. That’s no longer affordable, she said, but she would continue with the plan if the town gave her a salary increase. Myers pointed out that her predecessor, Greg Helsmoortel, did take the town benefit, bringing his total compensation up to $50,000. She added that the town is looking at potential insurance increases that could push her benefit costs up to around $22,000, meaning the town would save about $7,000 by granting her request for a salary increase.
Board member Jimmy Bruno said he understands the math, but the public perception would be that Myers was giving herself a 40 percent raise after one year in office.
Myers said the board’s position was motivated by political rather than financial considerations.