In a 3-2 vote, a majority of the Yorktown Town Board approved $288,000 in additional spending in the preliminary 2012 budget without increasing the tax rate. The measure, which was approved by council members Nick Bianco, Jim Martorano and Dr. Terrence Murphy, was described by outgoing Yorktown Supervisor Susan Siegel as “reckless and unrealistic.”
“The town board increased expenditures by $288,000 – but cleverly, or recklessly, depending on one’s sense of fiscal responsibility,” said Siegel, “they didn’t increase the tax rate to ‘pay’ for the additional expenses.”
“I was disappointed that the board unrealistically inflated projected income as well as to raid the fund balance yet again in order to avoid going over the tax levy cap or raising the tax rate,” Siegel added.
Bianco is confident that the majority of the board made sound decisions.
“I have been doing budget for 16 years, she has been doing them for two years,” said Bianco. “Last year everyone was upset when we took $50,000 from the fund balance. We were called irresponsible. Well lo and behold, we discover another million in surplus. I feel very comfortable that we can still acquire the proper fund balance next year.”
When the town board adopted its preliminary budget on Nov. 15, Bianco, Martorano and Murphy approved to keep a town employee who Siegel proposed to layoff. The cost of the employee was $65,000. The council members also approved to give the highway superintendent $200,000 from the highway fund reserve to purchase a vehicle and $25,000 to go in the highway department’s drainage line.
Siegel proposed laying off the employee, who holds a civil service job of a receptionist, because there was no need for a receptionist in any town department and the person is not qualified for any other position, according to the supervisor.
“I don’t think it is right to layoff someone who has been with the town for 19 years,” said Bianco. The employee will be moved to the supervisor’s office as of January until another place can be found. Bianco suggested there may be room in the assessor’s department.
Siegel disagrees. “I find it unconscionable to spend $65,000 of taxpayer money to fund a position that is no longer needed. Like it or not, and until the economy improves, layoffs are a reality that all fiscally responsible elected officials and taxpayers must face,” Siegel said.
As for the $225,000 combined fund approved for the highway department , Siegel thinks the money is being spent without any kind of planning. She said that the highway department was already over its budget by $188,000 this year and that there was no documentation to support the need for a new vehicle.
“Her beef with the highway superintended is what has caused problems in this administration for the last two years,” said Bianco. “I am not getting involved with this personal beef. The highway superintendent has told us that he needs a truck and money in his drainage line in order to perform his duties. We need to give the tools necessary to do his job, especially if he has the funds in his reserve fund. That is why we have a reserve fund.”
A copy of the preliminary budget is available on the town website (www.yorktownny.org) for public viewing and some bound hard copies are also available by request at town hall.
The next step in the budget process will be a public hearing scheduled for Wednesday, Dec.10 at 7 p.m.at town hall, at which time Yorktown residents can speak up and have input into the process before the town board votes to pass the budget by the Dec. 20 deadline.