Bumping into the New York state-mandated 2 percent tax cap, but not breaking it, Johnsburg Town Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed’s budget will mark a 1.98 percent increase to the tax levy over last year's.
The 2012 budget moved from tentative status to a public, preliminary document at the Oct. 18 town meeting.
The budget will cut funding to the town library, the Hudson Headwaters Healthcare Network and the Depot Association, which Goodspeed helped found.
Increases will be made to emergency medical services and the town's highway department.
The cuts are hard, said Goodspeed, but before the town increases taxes or borrows money for programs or projects it should make those difficult cuts.
“Your first directive should be to send me back to make people more unhappy,” Goodspeed said. “This town is financially healthy, this budget is essentially sound, some organizations are hurt, but in times like this, it has to be that way.”
Town board member Ron Vanselow commended Goodspeed on his work with the budget and keeping increases under the 2 percent cap, but said the town needed the option to break the cap.
A hearing on exceeding the tax cap will precede the town's next meeting, moved from Nov. 1 to Nov. 3 to also accommodate for the budget hearing.
Why put the budget out for public input if staying under the tax cap is the biggest priority, asked Vanselow. If there's no flexibility in the budget, all input will be wasted, he said.
Board member Arnold Stevens said, “We went into this with our hands tied,” and voted aye to begin the tax cap break process. The only opposing voice was Goodspeed's.
“I think the cap is a dumb law,” said Goodspeed, citing a 21 percent increase in worker's comp costs and a 100 percent increase in health insurance costs, along with the unfunded mandates all towns deal with.
But the intention is good, and a leaner town budget is the right way to go, said Goodspeed.
Board member Gene Arsenault said, “I personally have the feeling that we're holding on by our fingers.”
The town has to spend for major repairs needed for buildings, like the roof at the senior meal site. Mowing the cemeteries is good, but there are other problems that need to be addressed, he said. Sidewalks in North Creek need repairs, but many hamlets haven't had any attention paid to their pedestrian walkways in years, said Arsenault.
A new action plan should be a priority. The one created for the town in 1993 returned its investment many times over with grant application awards, said Arsenault.
Johnsburg needs to send the message that it will invest in its future and cares about its public appearance, Arsenault said.
Increasing the difficulty of already hard budget decisions has been an unavailable town bookkeeping office, said Arsenault. When he's tried to stop in personally, the office is empty. He had to make six requests for information on some unexpended funds.
In other town business, parking at the Black Hole area on Harrington Road had no action. After public comment concerned with vague wording in the law's title and some of its body, the document will be returned to town attorney Tony Jordan for editing.
The town beach's permit to list as a swimming spot is no longer valid, said Cedarwood engineer Cathy Suazzo. She's contacted a program at Paul Smith's College that offers land use recommendations as part of a class curriculum. Upper-level students will review the beach and its uses to build a presentation recommending changes to the area under a professor's guidance. It will cost the town nothing, and the board approved the idea.
The town's transfer station likely won't get a compacter until next spring, but a weatherproof shelter is needed onsite now to protect staff from the elements. The town is reviewing options locally.
The Kellogg property by the train depot has a new, official name — Riverfront Park at Railroad Place. Kate Nightingale said the most vocal members of the naming committee were those most opposed to the property committee's first attempts at a name.
The property will soon be reviewed by engineers for repair recommendations.