Rotterdam budget approved after heated discussion
ROTTERDAM The Rotterdam Town Board on Wednesday adopted a 2013 budget that will increase the tax levy by 1.41 percent.
The adopted $21.39 million spending plan actually reduces the tax levy increase projected in Supervisor Harry Buffardi’s proposed budget by about half a percentage point. The drop came as a result of a minor bookkeeping error that included the General Electric Company’s 10-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with the town a year ahead of schedule.
As a result, Buffardi’s original budget factored in less tax revenue from the company than it is projected to pay in 2013. General Electric will pay $4.8 million in town, school and county taxes during the first year of the agreement in 2014.
Homeowners will pay about $3.66 per $1,000 of assessed property value to support the general and highway funds. The owner of a home assessed at $200,000 could expect a tax bill of about $732 before special districts are included.
Discussions on the budget prior to its approval included a heated exchange between board member Robert Godlewski and John Paolino, the town’s financial consultant. Godlewski started by asking for a five-year outlook for the town’s finances and an estimate of where the reserve balances will be for Rotterdam’s various special districts. He also questioned how disaster relief money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the damaging tropical storms of 2011 was allocated throughout the budget.
“Just because we got money from FEMA doesn’t mean the department heads or the supervisor can spend it any way they want,” he said.
Godlewski then touched off the verbal fracas after grilling town Comptroller Jacqueline Every about a $218,000 line item for a contingency account that increased substantially over this year’s initial allocation. Every said the funds are intended for unseen fluctuations in costs, such as hikes in the price of fuel, but Godlewski argued otherwise.
“This is, to me, a slush fund,” he said, “and I don’t like it.”
Paolino then blasted Godlewski for being “out of line” with his questioning. He said the board member appeared to trying to “embarrass” the comptroller.
With discussion growing heated, Buffardi quickly moved the budget to a vote, and it passed, 4-1. Godlewski was the lone board member to oppose the budget, blasting the board for failing to address his concerns in public.
“I have never seen such a total disrespect for open and transparent government,” he said before casting his vote. “You not only won’t give me the answers, you won’t give them to the public, either.”