Middletown Board makes budget cuts

By Geoff Samuels
A special meeting of the Town of Middletown Board was held on Friday, October 19 to discuss the current achievements in budget reductions and to prepare for the upcoming public hearing on November 7, and the actual budget vote on November 13.

The first order of the meeting was to announce a plan to switch health insurance providers by moving from Mohawk Valley Physicians (MVP) to the Capitol District Physicians Health Plan (CDPHP).

If enacted, this would result in a total savings of $53,450, a major reduction.
“This is a good thing,” said Middletown Supervisor Marge Miller, “and that’s why we’re back at the table not trying to nickel and dime $80,000 out of the budget.”

Bond rolls over
As explained to the board by Assistant to the Supervisor Beth Bush, The Arkville Water Districts’ $852,000 bond anticipation note (BAN) had come due and, because the project is not complete, was rolled over into a new one. Due to a $451,000 grant received with the assistance of Assemblyman Cliff Crouch after Hurricane Irene, the principal of the bond has been basically cut in half, thereby reducing the interest payments from $24,200 to $14,200, a savings of $10,000. This brings the total amount of budget reductions to $63,450

Tax cap revisited
At the October 9 board meeting it had been established, according to calculations made on the State Comptrollers website, that the New York State 2% property tax cap would be equal to 3.3% for the Town of Middletown when specific circumstances were taken into account. At Friday’s meeting it was announced that the figures had been rechecked, and the actual tax cap was now calculated to be 2.6%. With this new number in mind, the board still faced more budget cuts.

Better truck or higher wages?
Part of the Highway Departments’ budget is allocated towards a new truck.
Addressing Superintendent of Highways John Biruk, Miller said that she had given him everything he had asked for, but felt that there should be “some wiggle room there.” Miller noted that a reduction in machinery of $10,000 would bring the total in budget cuts to $73,450 for a tax increase of only 2.5 percent.

At that point, Deputy Supervisor Mike Finberg and board member Jake Rosa became engaged on the issue of whether wage hikes should be limited to two perent in order to provide for a better selection of optional equipment on the new truck.

Devil in the details
The debate continued between board member Brian Sweeney and Finberg when Sweeney maintained that he would be comfortable with a tax increase of 2.5 percent and that it should be relatively easy to achieve.

Finberg argued that he would rather see better optional equipment on the truck and leave the tax increase right at the actual cap of 2.6 percent. Miller added that the average budget increase over the last 10 years has been 7.19 percent.

“So this is reasonable,” she said, “which is not to say that there isn’t still fat… depending on your definition.”

The publics’ response to the various budget proposals will be heard at the Town Hall public hearing on November 7 at 7 p.m. The final vote on the budget will be at the next Regular Town Board meeting on November 13 at 7 p.m.