Call for Shandaken budget oversight

By Jay Braman Jr.
With the Ulster County facing challenging economic times, Big Indian resident Gary Gailes has urged the Shandaken Town Board to proceed with caution when finalizing next year’s budget.
Along those lines, Gailes has called for a special committee to be formed to look at the possibility of a tighter budget and what that would mean to the town and its residents.
A preliminary budget prepared last week calls for spending of just over $5 million. Discussion of the plan will take place on October 27 during a special workshop meeting of the town board beginning at 6 pm. At that time all proposed spending would be reviewed. The public is invited to attend.
While the overall hike in the tax levy is for just under seven percent, an increase that most taxpayers under normal circumstances would grudgingly live with, the levy for the general fund portion of the budget, or the non-highway department half, is slated to skyrocket over 11 percent, a figure that, in previous years, has made taxpayers squirm and demand an explanation.
But this year most folks are bracing for what is expected to be an expensive winter. Increased fuel costs coupled with stiff property tax hikes may be too much for many homeowners to handle.
Gailes noted that town budgets are based on anticipated revenues. With sales receipts expected to drop and mortgage tax receipts going down, that revenue stream will be less.
Also, Governor David A. Paterson has called for a November 18 special session of the legislature to close a potential $1.2 billion current-year budget shortfall related to the recent turmoil on Wall Street. Unclear is what impact those decisions will have on other state revenues supplied to towns.
A public hearing for the Shandaken budget has been set for November 5 at 6:30 p.m. Passage of a final budget is expected that same evening.
Given the uncertainty of the times, Gailes has asked the board to be cautious, and conservative, when calculating revenues. He also wants the committee to examine ways to deal with the fallout that would come from any revenue shortfall.
“What are we going to do when people start running out of fuel oil in January or February?” Gailes wondered.