I was elected Busti Town supervisor in the November 2011 and currently serving my first term. When I was sworn in January 2012, the Town Board operated under the 2012 budget that was prepared in October 2011 when I was a town councilman. The 2013 budget is my first compiled as the supervisor.
Preparing the annual municipal budget is one of the main responsibilities of a town supervisor. I take this responsibility completely seriously and know that is my duty to present a legitimate and fair budget to the property owners in both the Town of Busti and the Village of Lakewood.
The 2013 Town of Busti budget that I will be presenting to the Town Board is bare bones and is presented to basically keep the town operational. I have been working, and struggling, with this budget because of the severity of the cuts that we are facing.
First, as every town in this county is experiencing, worker's compensation costs have been billed directly to the towns by the county government, rather than included on the January tax bill on a separate line as a chargeback. This change has occurred so that the county will not have to include these costs in their 2013 budgets and lower their levy responsibility to stay under the state mandated 2 percent limit. By transferring these costs to the local municipalities, almost every town will be forced to go over their mandated 2 percent levy increase, forcing them to pass local laws indicating they will exceed the 2 percent levy increase. (A 'levy' is the amount of a municipal budget that will be funded by property taxes; the remainder of the budget is funded by other sources.) The worker's compensations charges for the Town of Busti are $63,047. These are new charges to the Busti budget in 2013.
Second, the NYS retirement increase of $32,000 for 2012 was not budgeted in the 2012 budget and has been added to the Busti 2013 budget. On top of that, we have been notified that the increase for retirement for 2013 will be an additional $10,000; totaling $42,000 for two years of increased retirement costs added to the 2013 Busti budget .
Third, appropriations have increased 3.9 percent for 2013 as compared to 2012.
Fourth, sales tax revenue received by the Town of Busti in 2012 was overestimated by $124,000, as compared to 2011. We have not yet received the quarterly sales tax payment for summer activity. However, should this payment not reach the increased estimation, we will be forced to add this difference to the 2013 budget.
As a town board member last year, I was not privy to this sales tax information. Overestimation of revenues in a past budget will force the Town of Busti to use a good portion of their fund balance to pay daily expenses in 2013. This certainly is not the purpose of a fund balance and is a dangerous practice. The fund balance is actually the municipal savings account, not the personal savings account of an over zealous supervisor or town board. Its purpose is to be used in cases of emergency, such as the tornado that struck Busti in the 1980s. It is not to be used by over enthusiastic supervisors and town boards as a personal savings account and grow the balance to a huge amount. After all, this is all taxpayers' money.
The combination of these four items, and countless lesser issues, has not only forced us over the mandatory 2 percent levy limit, it is causing for me as Busti town supervisor to make agonizing budget cuts.
To reduce Busti's 2013 spending, I have made cuts in employee raises from 3 percent to 1 percent for next year. This is an especially difficult decision because these dedicated individuals are the every day face of the Town of Busti in assisting our taxpayers. Additional cuts to the 2013 budget include the Busti/Lakewood Golden Agers, American Legion, Lakewood Memorial and Busti Hazeltine Libraries, and the Chautauqua Lake Association. It simply does not make good budget sense to borrow money from our municipal fund balance to give to other organizations.
In conclusion, as Busti town supervisor, I have made certain that every sitting Town Board member knows the 2013 budget from front to back. After hours and hours of agonizing decision making, the Town of Busti budget that will be presented to the Town Board is bare bones while attempting to maintain a very conservative fund balance.