Workers’ comp tangles Hampton town budget

T he Hampton Town Board adopted what officials described as a difficult budget during their monthly meeting last Wednesday.

Despite holding the line on spending, this year’s budget is expected to increase by about 3 percent because of an increase in the town’s workers’ compensation premium. The town will comply with the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap because workers’ compensation expenses are an allowable exclusion under the law.

“This was a very tough budget to look at and think about,” said Supervisor Dave O’Brien. “We were very conscientious of how we looked at the budget. We tried hard to keep spending down but workers’ compensation had a serious impact on what we are doing.”

Next year’s tax levy, the amount of money to be raised by taxes, before workers’ compensation is $255,514. But after factoring in workers’ compensation that number increases to $270,498, a jump of nearly 6 percent.

The increase is the result of a claim made three years ago that affected the town’s experience rating, a measure used to determine the cost of a premium.

O’Brien said the increase caught officials by surprise. They had believed the premium would be similar to last year’s rate but instead, it nearly doubled.

The town’s premium is expected to peak at $17,500 next year and will begin to decline thereafter, if there are no additional claims made.

In an attempt to compensate for the increased cost of workers’ compensation, officials cut nearly $2,000 it had appropriated for attorney’s fees; $1,000 from central printing and mailing; and $1,000 they believed they could save from moving into a more efficient building.

Most of the savings, however, were realized by cutting the Highway Department’s expenses. Officials examined past years and determined they could save $3,000 in snow removal costs.

“There weren’t a lot of good choices,” said Herb Sady, a board member. “We looked at lots of things and some people won’t be happy but we did the best we could.”

O’Brien admitted some concern that officials may have budgeted a little close to the vest, but said the town does have some contingency funds if unexpected costs arise in the next year.

Total expenses, including both the general and highway funds, are projected to be $303,160. Total nontax revenues are projected to be $49,800. The town will also pay $32,354 for fire protection. Officials will apply $30,200 from the town’s general and highway unexpended balances to offset those costs and decrease the tax levy.

Officials cannot finalize the actual tax rate per thousand until the county reviews and finalizes its figures.

A public hearing was held to discuss the budget but no one raised any objections and the fiscal plan later received the unanimous endorsement of the board.

 

Town hall update

O’Brien updated the board on the progress of the town hall, which officials still believe will be usable by the time of elections in less than two weeks.

Volunteers are taping and sanding the interior sheetrock and were expected to paint the meeting room earlier this week. They hope to move the town clerk into the building by early next week.

It’s also hoped that the roof and the siding will be complete in the next “couple of weekends.”

The biggest hurdle to having the building open by Election Day will be the construction of a handicap accessible ramp which is required to comply with the American Disabilities Act.

O’Brien said as of Oct. 4 the town had spent $71,634 on the building and had approximately $10,000 in outstanding bills or expenses left before the building was complete.

“The original budget was $86,802 and I think we’ll come around $81,000 or $82,000,” O’Brien said.

He also thanked everyone for the time and effort they have contributed to the project so far.

The next meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 21, and will likely be held in the new town hall.

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