September 10, 2008: Ask questions about Shandaken budget

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To The Editor:
It’s budget time again in Shandaken. I see on the town’s website that the town supervisor would like the taxpayers to take an interest in the process and help to find ways to reduce and save.  I have a suggestion. Stop unbridled spending, examine priorities, understand your revenues, and budget accordingly.
As former head of the ambulance department I have a unique insight into the cost of operations of that department. As a taxpayer, I have serious concerns about runaway spending and loss of revenue in that department.
The last budget I prepared was for 2006. That budget was about $178,000. Anticipated revenue from the ambulance department budgeted by the town supervisor for that year was $145,000, and actual revenue recovered was $175,000.  That means that the actual net cost to the taxpayers for the ambulance department in 2006 was $3,000.
In 2007, the operating budget for the ambulance department was increased. During that year the ambulance department went way over budget, and service revenues went way down. The operating budget was again increased for 2008, and rumor has it that the ambulance department is $75,000+ over budget already this year. Revenue recovery is also way down, despite an increase in billing rates.
The current (2008) budget for the ambulance is $250,400. I am not sure what the recovered revenue is to date, but at the two meetings that I heard ambulance fees reported at, the amount was $8,500 or so in July, and $5,000 or so in May or June. Using the higher number, and multiplying by 12 months, the recovered revenue for 2008 will be $102,000, which means that the net cost to the taxpayers for 2008 will be at least $148,000.  That is $145,000 higher than in 2006. Why?
I can understand the need for increasing salaries, and operating expenses do increase. But the increases are greatly disproportionate to increases in any other department, and there is no excuse for the continued loss of revenue.
I would suggest that taxpayers (and the town board) start asking some questions.

Jerry Pearlman,
Phoenicia