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Friday, November 20, 2009

Budget Crisis Solution:Keep Spending!

It was a marathon meeting last evening at town hall as the Town Board listened to proposals to deal with the town's current 2009 deficit which was estimated at $64,000 and assemble a spending proposal that not only erased the deficit, but structurally prevents its recurrence.

The Supervisor offered, albeit far later in the year than he should have, cuts in positions in town hall that would certainly deal with the deficit and the structural spending which caused it in 2009 and will cause it to reoccur in 2010 if spending remains unchanged.

That solution involved unfunding several town hall positions including a Utilities Inspector making over $40,000, and a laborer position. These would have been added to the elimination of one Fire Marshall position in Building Department that currently employs 4 code enforcement positions. These positions are funded despite the fact that the demand for their services is dramatically down from past years due to the soft economy which has caused the number of permit applications to plummet.  Permits are the feed for the demand for services from code enforcement officials and as demand drops, so to does the need to fund these positions.

Not apparently in North Greenbush after last nights 3-2 votes to continue funding and spending on these positions and instead take $105,000 from the Highway Department's revenue stream and use that  money to pay for General Fund expenditures, including salaries.

The Highway Superintendent made it clear to the Board that taking these funds from his so called Pilot revenue will come at a cost down the road as the ability to use these revenues to fund a needed garage to house town trucks will cost taxpayers at a future date with bonding that otherwise might not have been necessary.  While that bill looms in the future, the practical effect of using $105,000 from the Highway Fund to continue General Fund spending as usual is more immediate.  The decision leaves unaddressed a General Fund structural deficit that will require the town to reassign these Highway funds every year to fund a shortfall in the tax revenue needed to spend in the General Fund at current levels.  The failure of the town board to address the General Fund revenue shortfall by reducing GF spending will impeded the town from building a needed garage to house equipment and trucks without costly borrowing.

All of this shows that the town simply does not need all of the code enforcement personnel currently on the payroll. Even eliminating one of the positions leaves us with three full time code enforcement officers to do less and less work. To make matters worse, the Utilities Inspector's job is simply no longer needed or justifiable. Two full time people can handle the work load the town is asked to manage in this soft economy.

One also has to question the need for the seemingly large clerical staff in this office. To listen to the arguments presented last night, you would think a secretary to answer phones was vital and that a billing clerk or perhaps two of them, also in this office, can't possibly answer a telephone.  It's the "Not my job mentality" that causes taxpayers to fund far more jobs than we need or can afford and that has to be honestly examined and addressed.

So North Greenbush has approved a budget for 2010 that carries over a large deficit for 2009, spends roughly the same as usual, permits an overstaffed Building Department without a non union manager to supervise the workers and manage as well as identify clearly, the workload they have and taxpayers, well, they are getting ready to pay for more of those absurd health insurance buyout checks for the gang thanks to an equally absurd union contract that apparently allows people who were never in the town's insurance to get a buy out check at taxpayer expense and at the highest coverage level possible, (family verses single coverage).

It's just not a management plan this town board can brag about. You can listen to the public comment of this meeting here on our Pipeline Radio Channel.

The entire meeting was too long to upload, suffice to say that the Board voted not to terminate the unneeded positions being debated in the resolutions, including a Utilities Inspector and laborer.  The budget does, however eliminate a part time clerk's job in that department by splitting the time of a clerk in the Comptroller's Office. That position in Building has been vacant for some time due to an illness.

A Moment of Class

We left unstated this morning a moment of class at last night's meeting when the Supervisor walked over to his newly elected successor to offer congratulations and a promise of a smooth transition. An equally sincere comment came from other board members including Al Spain.  With so much uncivil behavior occurring at these meetings, it was refreshing to know that moments of civility can blossom, even in the political turmoil that engulfs town hall and town government.

1 comment:

Interested Party said...

Hopefully, Josephine will make some much needed changes to the Town Building Dept. and Utility staff come January- agree that there are just too many bodies not producing- the volume of business is not there anymore- and what the hell does Bill Miller do all day except sit around on his large _ _ _?