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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Town Finances Center Stage Tonight

Tonight's Workshop Meeting of the Town Board should be short but potentially informative regarding the state of town finances. This will be the first public update from the Comptroller on town finances since the November elections and the seating of three new board members including a Supervisor.

All past indicators point to bad news. We entered the elections with a sizable deficit which had been estimated by town officials as $80,000 or more. The books had not been closed on 2009 finances which likely added to the deficit the town was carrying while bragging taxes were not being raised.

With 2009 books closed, it is very likely the deficit has grown because it seems impossible that we did not also create a new deficit for 2009. We say that because revenues from the county in the form of sales tax and mortgage tax were reported significantly under budgeted projections. Even the county executive has acknowledged trouble times ahead projecting as much as a 22% tax increase for the county budget because of the revenue shortfalls.

Add the grim projections to town officials all over the area from Senator McDonald on State aid to municipalities and similar affirmations from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and it seem very likely that North Greenbush will have finished 2009 with a significant deficit. How much we may find out tonight as the Town Comptroller is on the agenda to give a fiscal report.

Now put yourself on the pages of this year's budget. The numbers being reported by the county and state are down from projections on nearly all shared revenue sources. We could be heading to yet another deficit in fiscal 2010. The cuts in personnel made last year by the town board were a drop in the bucket compared to the cuts that should have been made to effectively reduce the or eliminate the pre-existing deficit. The Board refused to make the deeper cuts needed and continued to carry a Utilities Inspector we hired to inspect Water District 14. Obviously the need for that $45,000 expenditure has expired and when you look and the dramatic decline in building permits and the revenue derived from them which determines the need for personnel services in that department, its clear the town should cut deeper into the staffing of inspectors. We currently have three full time inspectors while the town of Brunswick gets by with one such position.

Add to this the patronage hire of a clerk in the building department connected to the Conservative Committee, refusal of the Board to recover improperly expended funds for health insurance premiums to a contractor over a four year period and there's lots of reasons the deficit is where it is. If no action is taken the deficit will continue to grow in 2010 creating the potential for a massive double digit tax hike.

The meeting starts at 7PM.

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