Taxes and Fees
The last collaborative speaker on the proposed 2011 budget commented and asked questions on the debt service (outstanding serial bond and bond anticipation notes).
Debt Statement Comments/Questions
When examining the Bond Anticipation Notes (BAN) Debt Statement, it states for the Police/Court Building (2/1/10), that $8 million was Authorized for the loan and that, $5.5 million is listed as Unused. It states that a 2.5 million BAN was issued on 7/22/10.
Does this mean we bonded for $8 million to renovate the Walden Avenue facility for police and the courts and have already used $2.5 million of the $8 million? Has that money been used and if so, what has it been used for?
Councilman Ronald Ruffino, project liaison, answered that to his knowledge $2.5 million of the bonded $8 million may have been drawn to move the project forward, but that it has not been spent. “Money is being spent for building design.”
Ruffino was asked who the design architect is and why is the completion date for renovation being moved forward from November 2011 to March 2012? “Are there design issues?”
Ruffino replied that the firm doing the design was Foit Albert and that they are working with certain department heads to make sure that their needs are being met. “Despite change orders, the firm is staying within budget.”
Considering we took a serial bond loan in 2005 of $1.86 million to purchase the Walden Avenue land and building for police/courts and took a BAN for $8 million this year to renovate the building, what can we expect to receive for our money; in other words, how many square feet of the 76,000 square foot building will be renovated for police and courts use?
Ruffino responded that 40,000 to 45,000 square feet of the building would be renovated and that the delay can be attributed to the town wanting to build a facility that would be worthy.
The interest rates on the recent loans are really low, 1.5%. It’s cheap interest rate money as you (board) like to say. However, the taxpayers should know that the interest that will be paid on the $15.8 million in outstanding bonds next year will be $303,000.
One of the collaborators spoke on the need to slash the budget because of the overload on taxpayers in New York. “Our children and businesses are leaving the area for greener pastures. When we set up the system of government we have it was with the idea that the government serve the citizens, not that the citizens serve the government. So I encourage you to look at some of these large increases and make adjustments. Also, it’s time you look at the contracts you negotiate in the future (with the unions). We have to look to the future of our children and our grandchildren. We are heading for a train wreck.”
All seven public hearing speakers agreed on the following:
• The tentative 2011 budget spending increase is outlandish and needs to be lowered
• The use of reserves is disproportionate when compared to past budgets
• Future union contracts need review and adjustments to reflect public best interests are being served
• Suspicion prevails that this budget is a money grab budget fostered by the town’s reassessment program and where the town can set itself up for a more prudent budget next year when three board seats are up for election.
• In today’s Buffalo News Town finance director David Brown cautioned that taxes may be even higher for some because of property revaluation. “Everybody is going to be affected differently,” he said. Hello, heed his statement! Some homeowners will see significant property tax increases.
• “This is not a very comfortable time of year,” Supervisor Giza stated, “because things are bad all around.” Yes they are and this budget does not reflect that. Show me where in this budget the Town and/or town employees are sharing in the pain. “We got hit hard by the cost increases in pensions and health insurance,” Giza has been quoted as saying in the media. Together those costs went up $544,000. Factor those cost increases out of the budget and the budget still increases by $1.36 million; or by 6.4% over this year’s budget.
• Highway Superintendent Dan Amatura is quoted as saying that he has asked for an extra full-time worker, at $54,000, because many on the department crew are longtime veterans with accumulated time off. On some days only half of the crew is at work, he said. It is my understanding that such veterans can receive up to 55 days a year off between vacation, holiday, sick, bereavement, etc. Union contract agreement. This may be another area for future consideration during union contract negotiations.
The following individuals spoke at the public hearing and contributed to this series on the proposed 2011 budget:
It should be noted that this group crosses political and socio-economic lines. Three are Democrats, two are Republicans and one is unaffiliated (blank). It is not about politics, nor should it be. It is not primarily not about who can afford or not afford to pay more in taxes. It is about a budget that has an outrageous spending increase at a time when residents are asked to do more with less. Many taxpayers are overburdened with the tax load in this state, can no longer afford to pay more in taxes and are making sacrifices to just exist. This budget proposal is a slap in the face to all Lancaster residents.
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