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Thread: information - West Seneca PRELIMINARY BUDGET - GENERAL & HIGHWAY FUND

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    Gold Member Night Owl's Avatar
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    Nov 2003



    Motion by Supervisor Clark, seconded by Councilman Osmanski, that proofs of publication and posting of legal notice: “OF A PUBLIC HEARING TO CONSIDER THE PRELIMINARY BUDGET FOR THE FISCAL YEAR BEGINNING JANUARY 1, 2005” in the Town of West Seneca, be received and filed.

    Ayes: All Noes: None Motion Carried

    Motion by Supervisor Clark, seconded by Councilman Osmanski, to open the public hearing.

    Ayes: All Noes: None Motion Carried

    Supervisor Clark stated that the proposed budget represented a 6.3 percent increase in taxes over the year 2004.

    Councilman Graber stated that when the budget was proposed it preceded the American Refuel litigation resolution adopted at the last Town Board meeting. Money had been set aside in case the town did not prevail in this matter, but due to the hard work of Town Attorney Tim Greenan they were victorious. He suggested that funds from the American Refuel litigation be utilized by passing them on to the taxpayers through the budget. Councilman Graber thought that this would have a dramatic positive effect on the overall tax increase.

    Supervisor Clark noted that there was a correction put through by Munistat, the town’s municipal bond fund advisors, that issued a difference of $165,000 in the original workups of what would be needed next year to service debt principal and interest. With the $350,000 from the American Refuel litigation the change in the budget would amount to $515,000.

    Motion by Councilman Graber, unanimous second, to modify the proposed General Fund budget as follows:

    Increase appropriations – Bond Principal 01.9711.0910 $100,000
    Increase appropriations – Bond Interest 01.9711.0911 $ 65,000
    Increase appropriated Fund Balance (Revenue) $515,000
    Decrease tax levy (Revenue 01.1001) $350,000

    On the question, Councilman Osmanski stated that they had been taxing the property owners of West Seneca for this money and putting it aside in case they did not win the American Refuel litigation, but the town prevailed and did not need to use the money so it was only right that it went back to the taxpayers.

    Supervisor Clark stated that based on his calculations the tax increase for the General Fund and Highway Fund for 2005 would change from an increase of 6.3 percent to 4.36 percent.

    Councilman Graber stated that typically they did not advocate non-recurring revenue sources, but this was already money they had set aside and they should be giving it back.

    Ayes: All Noes: None Motion Carried

    Supervisor Clark stated that the costs that were passed on to the residents by other towns were quite staggering, even those with large commercial tax bases and increases in assessed value larger than West Seneca. He thought that the cost control programs and revenue enhancement programs utilized in West Seneca had paid off, along with an increase in assessed value. The Town of Hamburg was approving a 5.9 percent increase, Amherst had an 11 percent increase, and Cheektowaga was a 9.5 percent increase. Although he did not like to increase taxes, Supervisor Clark thought they had things in good stead compared to other similar sized towns in an extremely difficult budgetary environment.

    Councilman Graber stated that in 2001 the total pension costs for all town employees including the police was $159,000. In 2005, the cost would be $1,700,000. This increase was due to the state legislature’s action in the late 1990’s when the stock market was booming that eliminated the 3 percent employee contribution to the state pension fund. Councilman Graber noted that at least half the increases for the towns were pension related costs. Although the state legislature now saw the errors in their ways, they still had not commenced taking contributions back again from the employees. This was an unfunded mandate that was passed down by the state, and it amounted to at least 50 percent of the tax increase. Councilman Graber commented that there was only so much the Town Board could do in terms of reducing expenses, but unlike the county budget, every dollar in the town budget was spent in West Seneca. Everyone paid a hefty county tax, but the town received very little county funding in return. There were no county parks in West Seneca and no sheriff’s patrols. The same was true for the state taxes. Councilman Graber suggested that the taxpayers contact their state legislators and ask them to do what was right for all the taxpayers in New York State.

    Frank Boncore, 250 Heather Hill Drive, stated that he was a public employee for 34 years and Tier 1 and 2 employees never paid into the pension fund. Tier 3 and 4 employees paid 3 percent, but the state legislature eliminated that for employees with 10 or more years of service. Employees with less than 10 years of service continued to pay 3 percent of their salary to the pension fund.

    Councilman Graber agreed but stated that the 3 percent contribution for employees with 10 or more years of service was a major revenue source that was eliminated. The $1,700,000 figure would be reduced considerably if the 3 percent contribution were reinstated.

    Mr. Boncore noted that municipalities had a free ride for a number of years when the stock market was booming, but that was a temporary thing.

    Virginia Grandoni, 870 Orchard Park Road, stated that she was a Tier 3 employee of the City of Buffalo for 10 years and she paid into the pension fund for 10 years. Mrs. Grandoni did not agree with the elimination of the 3 percent employee contribution and thought that it should be reinstated.

    Councilman Graber noted that even if the state legislature were to change the employee contribution into the pension fund, they could only change it for new employees because of the New York State constitution. They could not go back to existing employees and require them to contribute.

    Mrs. Grandoni commented that the majority of people did not get free pensions or a raise every year like civil service employees did. People with jobs in private industry had a tax increase on their tax bill every year without the raises, free pensions, or tax-free pensions when they retired. Raises were not automatic in private industry and Mrs. Grandoni did not believe they should be automatic in public sector jobs. She suggested that the elected officials and department heads forego their raise this year to help lower the tax increase. Mrs. Grandoni further commented that in private industry most employees had to pay for their health insurance. She understood that union contracts were involved, but thought that there should be some give and take when negotiating those contracts.

    Supervisor Clark responded that they had made some progress in the area of hospitalization insurance. In the recently signed police contract, the town would be saving at least $80,000 per year on hospitalization insurance and that could be as much as $130,000 next year. The raises only amounted to about $22,000 in total.

    Councilman Graber stated that in the third year of the police contract that was recently approved the total package only increased 1.6 percent. He thought that this was commendable and noted that the unions had worked very closely with the Town Board and helped to lower expenses.

    Mrs. Grandoni questioned if the 2005 budget reflected an increase in pay for the 350+ town employees. She further questioned the number of non-union employees

    Supervisor Clark responded that the 2005 budget included contractual pay increases under existing union contracts. The number of part-time employees with no benefits was in the high 200’s. Some part-time employees would receive a very modest raise, but many had not received raises in two or three years.

    Mrs. Grandoni questioned how this was broken down and how it was reflected in the tax increases.

    Supervisor Clark stated that he could work up a schedule and furnish Mrs. Grandoni with that information.

    Amy Carpenter, 406 Woodward Crescent, noted that the columns on the budget were not labeled. She questioned what each of the columns represented and if there was anything on the budget that indicated what last year’s figures were.

    Councilman Osmanski explained that the first column was the category, the second was the account code, the third column was the proposed amount of money budgeted for each account code, the forth column was a subtotal for an individual category, and the fifth column was a total for all the individual categories for a department.

    Supervisor Clark stated that the 2005 budget did not show last year’s budget figures, but he would furnish Mrs. Carpenter with a copy of the 2004 budget.

    Paula Minklei, 896 Orchard Park Road, questioned whether all town employees were on incremental pay grades. She further requested a copy of the information that Supervisor Clark would be furnishing to Mrs. Grandoni.

    Supervisor Clark responded that almost all town employees were on incremental pay scales. He asked that Deputy Town Comptroller Chuck Malinowski make copies of the schedules contained in each of the bargaining unit contracts.

    Mrs. Minklei questioned who the Comptroller was, whether he was elected or appointed, and who the budget officer was. Mrs. Minklei further referred to Page three of the budget and a $25,000 allocation for Professional Negotiation Costs and questioned who did the professional negotiating.

    Supervisor Clark responded that Charles Koller was the Comptroller and the Town Board appointed him. The budget officer was Supervisor Clark. The town had a labor attorney for professional negotiating, and the Comptroller and appropriate department head also sat in on negotiations.

    Councilman Osmanski noted that the $25,000 line item was for outside legal work with regard to negotiations, and the town had used the same law firm for negotiations since he was on the Town Board. They were experts at negotiating and represented many municipalities.

    Mrs. Minklei questioned the amount of $240,388 on Page five, Special Items, Contractual Expenses, Unallocated Insurance and the amount of $5000 for Other Expense, Strategic Plan. She also referred to the Contingent Account and asked for an example of a contingency.

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    Gold Member Night Owl's Avatar
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    Deputy Comptroller Chuck Malinowski advised that 50 percent of the Unallocated Insurance line item was for insurance premiums. The town had an insurance policy for various things and the annual premium was well over $350,000. The unallocated insurance was liability insurance in case the town was sued for something.

    Supervisor Clark advised that $5000 for Other Expense, Strategic Plan was the town’s portion of the Master Plan expense. Examples of contingent expenses would be replacement of the police dog when the current dog died or payment for salt for the roads if they ran short.

    Mrs. Minklei questioned what BAN’s were on Page 16, under the transfer to Debt Service Fund.

    Mr. Malinowski responded that BAN’s were bond anticipation notes, temporary borrowings that occurred when a bond resolution was adopted but the bond was not yet issued. It allowed the town to receive the money to do the project quicker.

    Mr. Greenan advised that in many instances after the town passed a bond resolution to borrow a certain amount of money, they would first do a BAN that would borrow the money immediately, sometimes even at a lower rate of interest, until they got together enough bonds to put together an offering of some bigger expense for long term debt. Borrowing the money short term was often less expensive and at a lower interest rate, and depending upon the rates and the projects the town might consult with the outside accounting firm and decide to put all the BAN’s together and sell them on the market as a bond.

    Mrs. Minklei questioned the bond resolutions for various equipment, vehicles, and projects that were recently adopted by the Town Board.

    Supervisor Clark responded that the borrowing was authorized in the bond resolution, and they would then take their choice based on market rates and where the interest rates were as to whether or not they got BAN’s. This gave the town flexibility on financing.

    Councilman Graber stated that when the Town Board adopted the bond resolutions they were very specific as to what the money was being spent on. All the vehicles and equipment to be purchased were delineated on paper. New York State required this and they could not divert the money and spend it elsewhere.

    Mrs. Minklei referred to Page 16, Employee Benefits and questioned the Health & Welfare Insurance amount of $180,000 and whether there was any way of breaking down the dollar amount per person for Hospital and Medical Insurance.

    Supervisor Clark responded that the amount for Hospital and Medical Insurance included all full-time employees and retirees. He would be able to furnish Mrs. Minklei with the rates of insurance for the various policies the town was required to carry under contract. The Health & Welfare Insurance was for health and welfare payments to the police, plus dental and vision insurance.

    Mrs. Minklei requested a breakdown of the $2,580,000 allocated for Hospital & Medical Insurance.

    David Monolopolus, 97 Lexington Green, referred to Page five, Special Items, and questioned what professional services cost the town $10,000 per year. He further referred to the Pool Cars – Gas & Maintenance line item and questioned how many pool cars the town owned and who used them. Mr. Monolopolus also questioned the line item for Municipal Association Dues in the amount of $4000 and questioned what association the town belonged to.

    Supervisor Clark responded that the allocation for professional services was for grant writing expenses. Pool cars were available for employees in the Building & Plumbing Department, Assessor’s Office, Engineering Department, and Youth Bureau. The vehicles were maintained and parked on town property and were not driven home by the employees. Supervisor Clark advised that along with some minor associations, the town belonged to the Association of Towns, the lobby group that represented the town in state matters. Dues to the Association of Towns was based on population and amounted to over $2000.

    Evelyn Hicks, 276 Seneca Creek Road, questioned if an outside consultant was hired for grant writing and if the $10,000 allocation would cover the grants that were referred to in the proposed Master Plan.

    Supervisor Clark responded that the town used to hire an outside consultant for grant writing, but they now had a cost sharing arrangement with the Youth Bureau and an in-house employee that was assigned to AmeriCorps that did the grant writing. He noted that the $10,000 allocation was only the town’s General Fund portion of the overall team cost of running an in-house grant department. The AmeriCorps employee’s salary was partially funded by federal dollars.

    Councilman Graber noted that the allocation for this line item was decreased from $20,000 to $10,000.

    Mrs. Hicks referred to the Peer Counseling line item on Page 12 and questioned what this job entailed and if the two Peer Counselors were professionals.

    Supervisor Clark advised that the town had an arrangement for cost sharing with the school district, and they were reimbursed by the school district for much of the wages of the two Peer Counselors employed by the town. The Peer Counseling program was a drug awareness program that was very successful in the schools.

    Councilman Osmanski added that the two Peer Counselors had college degrees and were professionals. There was one Peer Counselor stationed at East Senior High School and one at West Senior High School. They recruited individuals and had 40 to 60 kids in their programs.

    Mrs. Hicks questioned if there were any line items on the budget that referred to AmeriCorps.

    Supervisor Clark responded that the AmeriCorps was really not a part of the budget, but some of the expenses of regular operation (ie. Youth Director’s salary) was part of the town’s contribution that was utilized to obtain the $2 million to $2.4 million annual AmeriCorps allotment that the town received for running the program.

    Jane Kester, 60 East & West Road, referred to the allocation for pool cars and questioned if one of the vehicles was designated for Supervisor Clark and Youth Director Mark Lazzara. She further questioned Mr. Lazzara’s annual salary of $73,207 and questioned if that amount was entirely paid by the Town of West Seneca.

    Supervisor Clark responded that he and Mr. Lazzara were each assigned a town vehicle. The town paid Mr. Lazzara’s salary, but he brought in approximately $2.6 million in grant funding annually, including the very successful AmeriCorps program.

    Councilman Graber commented that Mr. Lazzara had to go after the grant money on an annual basis and it was very competitive. Many people from the state and federal government that were involved with the grant funds would come to see the program, and Mr. Lazzara needed a vehicle to drive them around Western New York and show them where the grant money was being utilized.

    Mrs. Kester questioned if there were ever any reports on the AmeriCorps and their funding.

    Supervisor Clark responded that the AmeriCorps grants were at the Youth Bureau, and Mrs. Kester could contact Mrs. Stefanacci to review them.

    Mrs. Kester referred to Page 6, Police Personal Services, and the amount of $5,105,662. She questioned the number of employees in each job title and suggested that this information be listed on the budget in the future.

    Supervisor Clark responded that the budget was a financial document that simply had the dollars per line item. He offered to supply Mrs. Kester with the information she requested.

    Mrs. Kester referred to Page 17 and the decline in soccer fees from $75,000 in 2003 to $50,000 in 2004 and 2005. She further questioned if any soccer payments had been made to the town on the lease.

    Supervisor Clark responded that the projected revenue and financial performance of the soccer facility was not as predicted, so they had to more appropriately reflect the anticipated fees to the town. By partnering with a management company, they hoped that the $50,000 was a conservative estimate for 2005. Supervisor Clark advised that there were payments on the lease and that was what the $50,000 represented.

    Mrs. Kester questioned the salaries of the Dog Control Officer and Asst. Dog Control Officer and why they were so high.

    Supervisor Clark responded that the salaries were contractual and were negotiated as part of the Blue Collar Contract. Both individuals were well trained and certified NYS Peace Officers.

    Councilman Graber responded that the Dog Control Officers did not just handle dogs and they were on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. The town averaged about 150 deer killed on the road each year and the Dog Control Officers also handled these instances.

    Councilman Osmanski stated that there was a lot of overtime involved because they were on call nights and weekends. The budgeted amount included estimated overtime based on past years.

    Supervisor Clark noted that when the Police Department received calls at night or on weekends, the Dog Control Officers were only called out for critical issues as determined by the officer or dispatcher receiving the call.

    Virginia Grandoni, 870 Orchard Park Road, commented on three bad experiences she had with the Dog Control Officer. Mrs. Grandoni lost her dog on a weekend and it took the Dog Control Officer four days to call her back. A police officer shot a deer on a Friday night and it lay dead in her front lawn until Wednesday. Also, when Mrs. Grandoni had a bat in her house last summer and trapped it between a window and screen, she called the Dog Control Officer because Erie County wanted the bat to check it for rabies. The Dog Control Officer came to her house, took the screen out, and let the bat go free. As a result, Mrs. Grandoni and her husband had to go through six weeks of rabies shots. Mrs. Grandoni did not believe the Dog Control Officer was worth the salary he was paid.

    Karen Lucachick, 61 Greenmeadow Drive, questioned how many vehicles the town owned, excluding the Police Department, and who used the vehicles. She further questioned if any of the vehicles were driven home each night by the employees.

    Supervisor Clark responded that he would have the Comptroller’s Office furnish Mrs. Lucachick with that information.

    Mr. Malinowski stated that he had a schedule showing which department heads had vehicles assigned to them on a 24-hour basis, but he did not know how many pool cars the town owned. Supervisor Clark and Youth Director Mark Lazzara were two of the employees who drove town vehicles home each day.

    Mrs. Lucachick questioned why Mr. Lazzara would need to take a vehicle home.

    Supervisor Clark responded that Mr. Lazzara was on call for the AmeriCorps, which had over 200 employees at different service locations at all hours of the day and night. Mr. Lazzara was sometimes called out for field inspections, complaints, problems, accidents, etc.

    Mrs. Lucachick questioned if Mr. Lazzara received a salary from the AmeriCorps and as Youth Director.

    Supervisor Clark responded that Mr. Lazzara did not receive a salary from the AmeriCorps. He ran the AmeriCorps program as part of his job as Executive Director of the Youth Bureau.

    Councilman Graber commented that Mr. Lazzara was bringing in $3 million. All the money was being diverted into the hands of a number of West Seneca residents, and the AmeriCorps was doing a lot of positive things for Western New York. He suggested that Mrs. Lucachick visit the Youth Bureau and ask to see all the things that the AmeriCorps was involved in.

    Councilman Osmanski stated that the AmeriCorps did a number of things on weekends and Mr. Lazzara had to go to wherever they were and coordinate their activity.

    Mrs. Lucachick suggested that Supervisor Clark draft an explanation of how the town was picking up the expense for employee pensions and include the state legislators’ addresses for citizens to write to them.

    Paula Minklei, 896 Orchard Park Road, questioned landfill disposal costs of $430,000 under the recycling line item and recycling income of only $15,000.

    Mr. Malinowski responded that the $430,000 was what the town paid the company to pick up recyclables.

    Supervisor Clark stated that they thought they would get more revenue from recyling, but the recycling after markets went up and down like the stock market and they did not want to over estimate revenues. They were not certain what to expect.

    Councilman Osmanski noted that when they originally started the recycling program the town received a lot of money for recyclables, but the bottom fell out when more and more municipalities got involved. As they found new ways to utilize recyclable materials, they would once again be in demand.

    Councilman Graber stated that the town was at the end of their recycling contract and they would be taking all this into account when they negotiated the new contract.

    Councilman Osmanski further noted that there usually was some adjustment in the contract for a change in market value.

    Mrs. Minklei questioned $12,000 in income for van receipts, $140,000 in income for Sale of Assets & Minor Sales, and Unclassified Revenues of $123,000.

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    Supervisor Clark responded that the van receipts line item was for the senior citizen’s van. There was a suggested donation for those who used the van services and were able to donate. The anticipated income under Sale of Assets & Minor Sales was for a piece of property on Union Road in front of the Highway Department that they were going to sell. They would be getting an appraisal on the property, but this was Supervisor Clark’s best estimate as to what it was worth. The property was surplus and not needed. It was landlocked with the Highway Department building and had very little access to it. The only access was through the parking lot and gasoline pump area. Supervisor Clark stated that Unclassified Revenues were other fees that were unrelated.

    Councilman Graber stated that the town was also hiring outside consultants to analyze its phone bills with Verizon and street lighting bills with NYSEG. The Unclassified Revenues line item could include settlements resulting from this. The town had received word that they could anticipate a decent size settlement from Verizon as a result of something they initiated in 1998. The consultant’s fee was directly related to the amount of the settlement.

    Don Grasso, 64 Lexington Green, questioned the $8.1 million increase in the tax base indicated in Supervisor Clark’s budget message for 2005.

    Supervisor Clark responded that this increase represented the taxable tax base upon which the town could assess and charge taxes. This increased the amount of tax dollars taken in by approximately $200,000.

    Mr. Grasso commented on the money saved from consolidation of three jobs in the Sanitation Department and from settlement of the lawsuit with American Refuel and questioned why the budget still went up 4.3 percent with these additional funds coming in.

    Supervisor Clark noted that the pension costs alone increased by $725,000.

    Mr. Grasso thought that the budget could be reviewed a little more and reduced. He did not see a need for additional funds in the area of public safety and homeland security or $12,000 on ammunition.

    Supervisor Clark disagreed and stated that the additional funds would be spent on training for the police officers that he thought was necessary.

    Councilman Graber stated that the major reason for the spending increase was $1.1 million for the state retirement system and benefits and $469,000 for bonds associated with the roads that were rebuilt. These two items amounted to almost $1.6 million dollars and the total spending increase was $1.8 million.

    Mr. Grasso stated that he was happy with the services he received in West Seneca, but he hoped that the board members reviewed the budget carefully for ways of saving money and spending less.

    Councilman Hicks stated that the proposed budget was looked at line by line by the board members and up until the last two weeks they were prepared to issue a 6.3 percent budget, but because of the American Refuel settlement they were able to reduce that figure to 4.3 percent. Three percent of the 4.3 percent was contractual increases that the board members could not control.

    Mr. Grasso hoped that the contractual increases were not an annual increase and questioned if the town took in more revenue each year.

    Supervisor Clark responded that the town did not necessarily take in more revenue each year.

    Councilman Osmanski noted that a few years ago there was an assessment challenge for a railroad and utility company and the town lost a lot of money on that reassessment.

    Councilman Graber further stated that they hoped that the assessed value would increase in line with the cost of living each year, but that did not happen.

    Mr. Grasso questioned what type of new vehicles were included in the proposed budget for the Police Department.

    Supervisor Clark responded that the five new vehicles were patrol cars.

    Councilman Hicks commented that they could cut the budget by laying off employees and reducing goods and services, but he was not prepared to do that. He thought that the goods and services in West Seneca were excellent.

    Mr. Grasso stated that he relied on the board members to know how many employees were necessary and whether it was possible to layoff anyone.

    Councilman Osmanski stated that the budget process involved each of the department heads meeting with the board members and reviewing their departmental budget line by line. The board members questioned every line item and every expense and looked for ways to reduce the costs.

    Councilman Graber noted that in the last four years the Town Board had eliminated jobs and negotiated 20 percent contributions for health insurance from new employees in the union contracts. The White Collar, Blue Collar and Police unions all made sacrifices and concessions. They could only eliminate so many jobs; what they really needed to do was bring in new assessment.

    Motion by Supervisor Clark, seconded by Councilman Osmanski, to close the public hearing.

    Ayes: All Noes: None Motion Carried

    Motion by Supervisor Clark, seconded by Councilman Osmanski, to adopt the year 2005 Ad Valorum Budget (includes General & Highway Funds) as previously filed by the Town Supervisor and known as the “Preliminary” 2005 Ad Valorum Budget with the following amendments:

    Increase appropriations Bond Principal 01.9711.0910 $100,000

    Increase appropriations Bond Interest 01.9711.0911 $ 65,000
    Increase appropriations Fund Balance (Revenue) $515,000
    Decrease Tax Levy (Revenue 01.1001) $350,000

    Ayes: All Noes: None Motion Carried

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    Thumbs up Good Work- NIGHT OWL

    Good to have a great NIGHT OWL in West Seneca; keep eyes moving.

  5. #5
    Member Psycho1's Avatar
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    Dec 2006

    Worst budget process ever

    Isn't it funny, a CPA only presents his budgets with one line. Most budgets I've worked with show:
    1. Previous budget years nnumbers
    2. Amount actually spent in that year
    3. Proposed expenditures for the next year
    4. Precentage of increase or decrease

    I'd rather be hated for who I am... than loved for who I'm not!

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