LEWISBORO, N.Y. – Lewisboro officials say the town’s budget woes are starting to see some relief, as fund balances for both the general fund and highway fund are slowly beginning to creep out of the red.
Unassigned fund balances provide a cushion for town budgets and can be used for things such as snowstorms and other emergencies.
Supervisor Peter Parsons said that for 2012, $50,000 had been committed toward the general fund balance, but the town exceeded that goal by more than $96,000, giving it a total of $146,576. However, the fund balance was already in the red to the tune of $202,340, so the $146,576 surplus reduced the deficit to $55,764.
Parsons said that while things aren’t where he wants them to be just yet, the town is back on the right fiscal path.
“I think we did pretty well,” he said.
Parson said that most of the money that helped reduce the general fund balance deficit could be attributed to the work done by Joann Vasi, the town’s receiver of taxes.
“We budgeted that the receiver of taxes would bring in about $192,000 in past-due taxes, but she brought in $315,000,” he said. “She exceeded the number by $122,000.”
Parsons said the Highway Department fund balance is in an even better position, even though a cursory glance at the numbers might not indicate it.
The highway fund balance was a negative $28,172 going into 2012. Last year, it dropped $17,117 more, for a total deficit of $45,289.
However, Parsons explained that much of that money is from funds the town used to pay off expenses caused by Hurricane Sandy. He said the fund balance will actually creep into the black once the town receives its reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“Before we criticize [Highway Superintendent] Peter Ripperger, it should be noted that he managed to absorb almost all the cost of the debris cleanup from Sandy,” Parsons said. “And that will be cleaned up by FEMA. He’s actually done better than the general fund.”
Parsons said that the town has asked FEMA for more than $400,000 in Sandy reimbursements, but he is expecting between $150,000 and $180,000 – most of which will go toward the highway budget.
“We’ve built an excellent relationship with our FEMA representative,” Parsons said. “But with that being said, it’s not his decision” how much money the town will get.
The supervisor said he has no idea when the FEMA money will become available.
Parsons said that restoring the fund balance is the cornerstone to returning the town to fiscal health.
“I won’t have to be scared about borrowing money or getting downgraded by Standard & Poor’s,” he said
Parsons said he is optimistic about 2013.
“It all depends on how many unexpected costs come up,” he said. “We’ve already had some negative surprises – nothing huge, but they can add up. We had a long-term employee retire that we didn’t anticipate, so we’ll have to pay out accumulated sick leave and that kind of stuff. And then there are things like Highway Department trucks that need to fix. We’ll need money for that."