At Monday’s public hearing on the proposed 2023 budget, I was disappointed that none of the questions / comments I had addressed through a surrogate were answered. Supervisor Ruffino asked Director of Administration & Finance to come forward and take an open seat to answer the questions but allowed no opportunity for that to happen.

The address will be presented here, and a copy will be submitted to the town board for their consideration. Residents need to know how a budget with an increase in only 1.1% in tax rate, an increase of only $9 per hundred thousand dollars of property assessment was cobbled together. A budget where union contracts on wage and benefit increases are still in negotiations (and have hit an impasse); what the tax cap levy limit is and whether the town is only $7,800 below it; whether federal stimulus money was used to help lower the tax levy / rate.

If federal stimulus aid was used to cover the cost of the union contracts, is it a one-shot (one year), or life of the contract (4 years). Regardless, that cost will be absorbed by the Lancaster taxpayer in the future. Not looking a gift horse in the face, but how did we get to have such a fiscally responsible budget as Supervisor Ruffino claims he put together. Show me the work!

2023 Budget Public Hearing Questions / Comments

Who does not like a budget proposal with an estimated increase of 1.11%; an increase of $9 per $100,000 of assessed property valuation. Who would complain? That should not detract from reviewing the budget and determining how we got to that bottom line. Therefore questions and comments for clarification:

Preliminary Budget

Have the added corrections (revisions) to the tentative budget been accepted by the Board and where we are now holding this hearing on the actual Preliminary Budget?

Will the estimated tax increase be impacted by the ‘corrections’?

Wages / Benefits

Excepting Dispatch, am I correct in assuming union contract negotiations are continuing?

Regardless of contract negotiation outcome, does this budget proposal include funding coverage for wage / benefit adjustments to come – line items not presently accounted for in this budget?

Revenues increased by $1.08 million this year and the Fund Balance revenue at this same time last year is near $2 million more. Is this growth from normal increase, or fueled with federal stimulus revenue?

If federal stimulus revenue is being used to offset labor contracts, is it a one-shot (for one year) or to cover the life of contract (4 years).
So this added increase will be kicked down the road for the taxpayers one or four years from now.

Page 2 – Summary of Appropriations / Revenues

Column % increase/decrease BOTB over BOTB over -?
Column Tentative Budget vs, P/Y amended -?

Debt Service

It was pleasing to see the debt load decrease by a few million dollars.