Weekly Feature

2007-10-17 / Local News

Budget public hearing set for Oct. 22

by JESSICA L. FINCH Associate Editor

Is a fund balance at 10 percent too low? Should the Town hire four new employees for $380,000? Is there too much, or too little, budgeted for 2008?

Residents can let the Amherst Town Board know what they think of the tentative 2008 budget at the public hearing, scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 22 at Town Hall, 5583 Main St.

The budget is available for review at www. amherst. ny. us.

The tentative budget was created by Supervisor Satish Mohan, who is also the chief financial officer for the town.

His calculations call for a $115.83 million budget for 2008, an increase of 2.9 percent, or $2.37 million, from 2007. While the budget increased, the tax levy (the amount raised in taxes) for 2008 would decrease from $73.74 million to $72.89 million.

Mohan achieved that decrease by using reserves from the general fund, also called a fund balance. His action reduces the fund to $11.6 million, which is 10 percent of the total budget.

The fund balance had $22-25 million at one time, which Mohan said was too high. He said he wants to return the savings back to the taxpayers.

He has been criticized for that action because many feel 10 percent is too low and opens the town up for trouble if unexpected costs arise.

"The town's policy is 10 percent is the lowest ... anything from 5 to 15 percent is OK," Mohan said about percents for bond ratings.

When asked if he was 100 percent comfortable with having a fund balance at 10 percent, Mohan said yes.

He said money was in the budget to handle costs. His answer to questions about unexpected circumstances, such as the October storm, was that the town paid nothing for that and emergencies are paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"The town has the capability to raise money on short notice through bond anticipation notes," he added.

Mohan, who said he would support a local law to create a hiring freeze, has also been criticized for putting four new positions in his budget.

He said three of them are not new - the plant superintendent, a finance director and a purchasing manager - just unfilled. The fourth - a code enforcement officer, with an engineering degree - would be a new addition to the Building Department.

A resolution passed in January 2006 called for the hiring of a purchasing manager and a finance director, Mohan said. He said those were not filled in 2007 because of lack of funds.

When asked if he thought the funds would be available for 2008 he said he was not certain, but was going to try and keep them.

If spending became excessive, he said the first position he would remove would be the code enforcement officer.

Council Member Bill Kindel posted the costs of the new positions during Monday's board meeting. He said the plant superintendent would get a salary of $80,000; the code enforcement officer, $60,000; the purchasing director, $80,000; and finance director, $80,000.

With benefits, he estimated a total cost of $380,000.

Two amendments to the budget have been voted on, both sponsored by Mohan. The first, would fund the fire companies' 2008 budgets as submitted, and their 2009 and 2010 budgets be approved with a 3 percent increase over the previous year's budget.

The budget will also include $190,000 for 1,000 new trees as a step towards replacing those damaged in the October 2006 storm.

The board is scheduled to vote on the final budget at 3 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29 at Town Hall, 5583 Main St., Williamsville.

With budget season and campaign season in full force, Mohan has been "attacked" over suspension of rules about his unkept promises and backdoor deals.

Mohan spoke about two brought to light recently.

He did acknowledge that at one time, prior to officially becoming a candidate, he wrote in a letter that he would work for a $1 a year. He said he had thought he could continue teaching at the University at Buffalo, but realized that was not possible.

Mohan said it was impossible for him to live on the $1 promise.

Questions were also circling about discussions between Mohan and Council Member William A. O'Loughlin Jr. about a proposed $25,000 increase to the supervisor's salary and O'Loughlin possibly being offered a job with the town in the future.

Mohan said he and O'Loughlin had discussed raising the salary for the future to attract candidates but that will not be proposed at this time. As far as discussions about a patronage position, Mohan said that is not true.

2008 budget calendar

The public hearing on the tentative 2008 Town of Amherst budget will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 22. Anticipated adoption of the budget is at 3 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29. Both meetings will be at Town Hall, 5583 Main St.

Visit www.amherst.ny.us.

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