COEYMANS – The Coeymans Town Council held a public hearing last Thursday to gauge public reaction to the preliminary town budget for 2018.
The preliminary budget is $2,890,298 for the general fund, a slight decrease versus the 2017 budget of $2,965,942.
For taxpayers, the preliminary budget, if adopted in its current form, would represent a 1.58 percent increase in the tax rate, which is determined by a complex state formula that takes into account a number of factors, including property assessments.
“The increase is spread across the board, for things like health insurance and salaries,” Town Supervisor Philip Crandall said.
There would be no raises for elected officials in 2018 under the preliminary budget.
The budget would not impose any cuts in town services, Crandall added.
Town officials will vote on the budget this week on Thursday, Nov. 16. It has to be filed with the state by Nov. 20.
The public hearing was then opened up to comment from the community.
Still a sore point for some was the elimination earlier this year of a part-time clerical position in the town clerk’s office. Longtime Town Clerk Diane Millious announced her retirement a couple of months ago and she will be replaced by new town clerk Cindy Rowzee, who was elected to the post last week. But Millious was still adamantly opposed to the elimination of the part-time position, saying it is necessary.
“I had help for 16 years and I have been trying to fill the gap,” Millious said of the board’s decision early this year to eliminate the part-time clerk position. “You don’t see what I do here every day. I have been told my office was overstaffed, but I think the supervisor’s office is overstaffed.”
“I feel I needed to say something because I feel singled out,” Millious continued. “I am for saving tax dollars and have followed freezes on spending when we were told to, but my anticipated revenue was up – it’s not like I am not bringing in any money, and sometimes the office has to be closed. There were times all year when I needed that extra person.”
Town Councilman George Langdon agreed with Millious’ assessment.
“There is overstaffing in the supervisor’s office, and here you short-changed [the town clerk’s office] all year,” Langdon told Crandall.
Langdon pointed to several positions in the supervisor’s office, including an accountant and a payroll employee, among others.
“When you add all that up, it’s over $100,000 a year, not counting the supervisor’s office, and I think that is exorbitant,” Langdon said. “All departments were asked to cut, all except the supervisor’s office.”
Crandall responded that the positions cited were necessary, and that most positions also existed under the previous administration.
The part-time clerical worker in the town clerk’s office would have had a salary of roughly $11,000 a year. That position was not included in the 2018 budget that is currently under consideration.
However, a part-time clerical position is included in the proposed budget for the town supervisor’s office, which would receive roughly the same salary.
Crandall said that while the town has not begun advertising to fill that position in the supervisor’s office, he does plan to do so sometime this year. It is not clear when that would happen.
Town Councilman Tom Dolan also voiced support for the added position in the supervisor’s office.
Town Councilman Kenneth Burns, however, questioned the necessity.
“If you got by last year without someone in that position and Diane Millious is behind in her work because she needs someone, the need would be in Diane’s office, not in your office,” Burns told Crandall.
Crandall said the purpose of the public hearing was to gather comments from the community before the board votes on the final budget.
The final vote is expected to take place Thursday, Nov. 16.