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Budget Calls for Lower Taxes and Some Painful Cuts

LEWISBORO, N.Y. – Supervisor Charles Duffy’s 2012 tentative budget calls for a one percent decrease in the tax rate, but to get there some funding and jobs will have to be slashed.

The $9.7 million spending package requires just over $5 million to be raised by taxes. “We needed $5.2 million [in taxes] last year; now I’m asking for $5 million,” Duffy said. “My tax levy is down 2.8 percent [from last year].”

However, to achieve that, Duffy has had to make some painful cuts. “I can only control the tax levy ways – increasing revenue or decreasing spending,” he said. “My revenues are essentially flat compared to the 2011 budget. So when I reduce the levy, I do it by reducing spending.

Some of those spending cuts came from the highway department. Highway Superintendent Peter Ripperger had requested $3.2 for the 2012 highway department budget, a 28 percent hike over 2011’s $2.5 million allocation. Duffy’s budget keeps the highway department at $2.5 million. That reflects the elimination of one position – a motor equipment operator – with a base salary of $70,000.

Duffy said that if the position had remained in the budget, the tax levy would have jumped from minus 1 percent to an increase of .8 percent.

Duffy said he didn’t think the elimination of one position would impact the way the highway department does its job. “I think they can still get it done,” he said.

Other cuts in the highway department include a reduction in gravel expenses (.29 percent), a deference of the purchase of a new vehicle, a reduction in the road paving line (6.3 percent), a reduction of the winter overtime line (1.5 percent) , reduction in truck repairs parts line (1.25 percent) and a 20 percent reduction in salt usage.

Cuts from the general fund call for reducing a court clerk position from full time to part-time, not replacing a maintenance worker who is retiring, reducing the building inspector’s job to part-time, reducing a parks maintenance position to part-time and reducing the senior citizen bus driver to part-time status.

Duffy said that if every department manager’s budget requests were met, the tax levy would increased by nearly 21 percent. “If we don’t control what we ask the taxpayer to pay for by controlling our spending, then we will not be able to attract new residents to the town,” he said. “We are already the highest taxed county in the country. If we can’t demonstrate that we can spend responsibly then houses won’t sell and that’s the beginning of the spiral downward.”

Duffy noted that some changes could be made to the budget before it’s finalized and that is was possible for some positions and/or funding to be replaced. The public will have a chance to comment on the budget at a public hearing on Dec. 5. The town board must finalize the budget and present to the town clerk by Dec. 15.

“I think it will be ready by end of the public hearing though,” Duffy said. “I expect us to be able to vote on it then.”

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