Patterson Board Backs Budget, 1 Percent Tax Increase

Three weeks after postponing the board’s initial vote, council members unanimously passed Patterson Town Supervisor Michael Griffin’s budget for the 2012—2013 fiscal year. Griffin originally pushed the vote back from Oct. 24 to Nov. 14 to give the board more time to consider the elimination of a 13th highway department position, which stood in last Thursday’s final vote.

“Unfortunately we had to take one body out of the highway department,”Griffinsaid. “We have put some money in for some temporary help.”

The newly-adopted budget calls for a 1 percent tax increase, which falls within the parameters of the state-mandated tax cap. Though Griffin said it was a “difficult budget” Patterson found relief from the town courthouse grant, which “significantly reduced [the town’s] fund balance-usage.”

“At the rate we had been using at $289,000 last year—we’re doing $155,000 this year—we would’ve exhausted our fund balance in a little over three years,” Griffin said. “This will give us probably another four to five years at least before fund balances will be used up and in that time we’re hoping there will be some sort of economy recovery, revenues will come back to some reasonable level, and it would be nice if we could get a little interest on our money which right now we just can’t.”

Griffinand the board budgeted raises for some highway department officials pending a contract agreement, as well as a cost-of-living increase for Patterson employees.

“Most town hall employees have gone through a two year-period where they didn’t get any raises,”Griffin said. “In the best of all worlds we would’ve liked to have kept [the budget] to a zero increase, but we did feel that the employees need some consideration, as well.”

Prior to the adoption of the 2012—2013 budget, board members discussed the elimination of medical benefits for part time employees. While the New York State retirement program defines the difference between part time and full time, some residents wanted the board to distinguish elected officials part time employees by law, not by the hours they log each week.

“Why don’t we say that ‘as it relates to the Town of Patterson, council persons are considered part time employees irregardless of the number of hours that they should allow to document?’” Patterson resident Bruce Major said. “You’re creating a hazard, the hazard being that if someone wants health insurance that they may be inclined to document hours that may not be appropriate seeing that there really is no oversight for those hours.”

Councilmen Kevin Burns found defining council people as part time problematic, especially if a retired resident fills the position in the future and wishes to work full time. Burns also felt discomfort in encompassing elected officials in the deal, as Patterson’s judges are chosen by vote, as well.

“I don’t know the hours of the judges, that’s why we’re trying to go by the retirement system,” Burns said. “I have no problem doing it for the elected council people, but I’m not for judges without more information.”

In the end, the board stuck with its original resolution to stick byNew YorkStateretirement system standards.