Dear Town Board,
At last night at the meeting, public comments were not closed on the budget hearing. Here are my comments.
The theme of this criticism, my opinion as a taxpayer, of the 2012 budget is lack of consideration of cuts and savings through consolidation and too much reliance on tax increases. The proposed 8% increase is likely to only be the first of many increases on an already ridiculous amount of property taxes we pay. The supervisor herself said that if all the costs that really exist, and if the town were not draining the reserves, the increase would be much higher.
The justice department costs the town about $30,000. This could be outsourced to another town. This might save as much as $20,000.
We have lighting districts. There is no evidence that street lights improve safety on rural roads. Turn the lights off would save $18,000.
The assessors office could be outsourced or consolidated with other towns, as has been recommended by study after study for decades. Not only would this save money, it would likely produce better and fairer assessment. Savings: at least $20,000 after the first year.
Part of all of the highway department could be outsourced. A town of 2000 people with 25 miles of roads should not have a highway department. It’s inefficient. Savings? Who knows? Many a hundred thousand, maybe more, per year.
In the short term, the problem are lawsuits and legal expenses. I am the guy suing the town. If you have mediation, as I proposed a year ago, you might have avoided all these fees.
Next, instead of the town getting involved in neighbor to neighbor disputes, the town should tell people who complain about their neighbors to sue their neighbors in court and leave the town out of it. It's called a Nuisance Use lawsuit. Make it policy to recommend it to people who complain.
Zoning Control Officer/Building Code Enforcement: again, outsource. The few building inspections could be covered on a fee per inspection or fee per enforcement action that would likely save the town $15,000 in expenses (salary and benefits) and hundreds of thousands in legal costs due to liability because the current town employee has a habit of stirring up trouble.
After the town gets rid of all these inefficient functions, what would be left for the town to do? Stuff that is not happening now: grow small business with services and support, support agriculture with services and support, improve the agro-tourism infrastructure with trails and services, improve education with tutoring and classes for adults and kids. Most of this would be paid for by grants, small fees (sliding scale/voluntary) and fundraising. All of these things would be investments that would increase the tax base and property values and essentially be revenue neutral.
The cuts proposed here would be from 150,000 to 400,000, as much as 33% of the current budget, allowing for a cross the board tax cut of 25% over two years while simultaneous increasing the tax base, improving services to residents, protecting open space and creating a better place to live, raise a family and invest.
Thank you for consideration of this statement on the budget.
Stuyvesant Falls, NY