Ambulance funding takes jump in Shandaken preliminary budget

By Jay Braman Jr.
The Town of Shandaken’s preliminary budget has appeared on schedule this year, unlike last when the same document didn’t jump out of town hall until close to Halloween. But this year’s $5 million spending plan may still give taxpayers a fright. Filled with raises for all public officials and nonunion employees plus a whopping 18 percent increase for the town’s ambulance squad.
While the overall hike in the tax levy is for just under seven percent, a increase that most taxpayers in previous years have grudgingly lived with, the levy for the general fund portion of the budget, or the non-highway department half, is slated to skyrocket over 11 percent.
In contrast, the highway department’s side of the budget has an increase of less than one quarter of one percent. With a tax levy increase of only $27,302, the highway side of the equation drags the general funds increase down.
On Monday Supervisor/ Budget Officer Peter DiSclafani made no such distinction.
“It’s about a 6.8 percent increase,” he said.
With no discussion, DiSclafani announced that the preliminary budget had been prepared and the board agreed to submit it to the county as is required by law.
Taxpayers will have a chance to be heard on the budget next month at public hearing set for Monday, Nov. 3. The hearing will begin at 6:30 p.m. at town hall.
The largest single chunk of the tax increase comes from the town’s ambulance department, whose administration is seeking almost an 18 percent increase over this year’s funding. The department has seen substantial cost increases before. In 2007 the department was given a big increase, from that year’s $218,496 to $250,400 for this year. Now the department wants another $44,607 to bring the total operating budget up to $295,007.
Department Captain Richard Muellereile spoke briefly at Monday night’s meeting. He did not discuss specifics of the proposed increase but did note that the department’s revenues are coming in as expected, perhaps slightly better.
He said $125,000 has come in so far and he believes to get another $10,000 by the end of the year. Since that doesn’t cover the full cost of the department, Muellereile says everyone in Shandaken pays only $41.45 this year to pick up the slack.
If they get what they want for next year the ambulance department would, for the first time, have a budget that exceeds the town’s police department. The police are asking for a hike too. Operating this year with $278,093, they want a four-and-a-half percent jump to $290,803.
As for employee salaries, all are set to receive a four percent raise.
In contrast to all the above-mentioned increases on the general side of the budget, the highway department side of the budget has only an increase of less than one quarter of one percent.
Highway Superintendent Eric Hoffmeister said Monday that he had to increase the budget $27,302, but other than that no spending hike was necessary to take care of the town’s roads next year.
“The increase is only for payroll. There’s plenty of money there to do things,” he said.
Other notable budget increases include a jump in spending in the Phoenicia Fire District. District costs were $185,000 this year. Next year they are expected to be $222,167. The town’s three other fire districts have either minimal increases or none at all.
Copies of the preliminary budget are available at town hall.