Tentatively, budget up 5.4%

The tentative Whitehall village budget will increase the amount to be raised by taxes by $67,918.32, or 5.4-percent.

 

“It’s a pretty bare bones budget,” said Mayor Patricia Norton.

“Too bare bones for me,” commented trustee Kenneth Bartholomew.

The tentative budget calls for $1,570,811.62 in spending from $1,489,609 this year, an increase of $81,202.62, or 5.5-percent. The budget also projects an increase in revenues of $11,465 (5.9-percent increase) from $193,496 this year to $204,961 for the 2009-10 budget. Including omitted taxes from prior years and appropriated fund balance, the amount the taxpayers will have to pick up calculates at $1,323,036.21 in 2009-10, up from the 2008-09 total of $1,255,117.89.

The village adopted the tentative budget at their March 30 meeting and set the public hearing for the budget for April 13 at 6 p.m. at the village offices.

“Given the turnover in the board, I thought that we needed a starting point,” said village clerk Joan Douglas about the tentative budget, which holds pay for employees at the same rate as 2008-09. “This is how the numbers worked out after talking with everyone and putting everything in place. It’s not something magical that I did or did not do.”

Douglas said that one flaw in the budget was the contingency fund, which was at $35,000.

“That is not a contingency fund,” said incoming mayor Francis “Fra” Putorti.

“It’s not,” agreed Douglas. “But we went with nothing in that fund for a while.”

While the tentative budget was cleared before the April 1 deadline, the village also talked about water and sewer issues, including the need to bridge the gap in the two funds.

“In order to make the revenues meet the projected expenditures in the water department, we would have to increase the rates by 33-percent,” said Douglas.

“As the incoming mayor, that is not going to happen,” said Putorti. “I do not want to increase any rates at all, if we can.”

“So what do we look at for option B,” said Sandford.

“I think that option B is that we use our own resources and look into controlled timbering,” said Putorti.

“You have to look at that,” agreed Norton, whose term will come to an end on April 6.

“I know that this is a very hot topic,” said Sandford. “But I think that we have to look at this and find a responsible company and make sure that there is oversight.”

Water filtration plant manager Don Williams also added that the New York State Resource and Development Authority (NYSERDA) was interested in talking to the village about the option of solar energy at the filtration plant.

“NYSERDA wants to come up here and talk to us about a grant for solar power at the water plant,” said Williams. “I know that there has also been discussion on some kind of turbine power, but that can’t be done unless you replace the line all the way to Pine Lake, which would run about $2 to 3 million.”

For the sewer bills, Douglas said that the gap between revenues and expenditures would call for an increase of about $30,000 in rates, or 10-percent.

“I’m just telling you what the numbers say in both areas at this point,” she said.

“And that is without another man there, and not having another man is stupid,” said Bartholomew, who said that the sewer and water systems need another employee who is trained to operate the systems.

“If I were to drop dead tonight, you have an assistant operator, but you have no one to run that plant,” said Williams. “You are not going to get anyone to take the responsibility for a $6 million water plant and a $5 million sewer plant for $10-11 an hour.”

“But the question is where do we find the money to train and fund the new guy?” said Putorti.

“That is the question, and my point is that our sewer budget number is bigger then what you are looking at right now because we need that guy,” said Bartholomew.

Williams said that the state is aware that the village is both in need of a new operator and cash.

“They’re aware that we need more operators, but they are also aware of the monetary situation in Whitehall,” said Williams.

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