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Ontario Town Meeting   October 23, 2018

by WayneTimes.com
October 26, 2018

Budget Questions/Discussion

There were no Revisions to the Agenda and it was approved as presented.

The Public Hearing for the Preliminary Budget opened at 7:01 PM. The budget showed on the screen for the audience was different from the latest version that had been sent by Accounting Supervisor and Business Manager Linda Yancey, who provided the corrected numbers. The tax rate would be a reduction from the previous rate of 3.12 down to 3.0957. 

Linda Yancey noted that this is lower than last year and creates two new “H” funds, one for the fabric buildings for the recreation department in the amount of $32,500 and one to set aside money if need be to stabilize the tax rate pending future actions with Ginna in the amount of $100,000. 

Supervisor Robusto noted the budget addresses IT issues from the comptroller’s recommendations, including enhancing the website and upgrading town computers, and provides the town with electronic waste clean-up, adds a day for hazardous waste and pharmaceutical disposal, and sets aside money for road repairs, watershed improvements, capital projects and building improvements, and contingency funds. 

Resident Jim Switzer expressed that he is disappointed in the new approach to the budget, and that no detail is provided for the numbers.  Switzer said he is concerned about the value of the town increasing and the tax rate decreasing, and not being told what the elected officials are doing with taxpayer money, citing drains, gutters, and ambulance and emergency services. He stated that “as residents we are clueless,” that the summary numbers were the same as the week before, and that the budget tax rates do not add up. 

Supervisor Robusto responded that the budget was published in detail on the website. Robusto also noted that money for drains and gutters was included and that the town is working within the fiscal constraints. 

Resident Jim Doyle noted the elected board is going to receive a two percent raise, and that all department heads had an increase of two percent in their budgets. He also noted that about fifty percent of the items in the budget are contractual, and despite being told the town assessment is up about twenty million or so, the building contractual looks to be down. Mr. Doyle also commented that the money for off-street parking seems like it could be designated to other areas in need. Councilman Ruffell explained why the departments’ budgets appear to be two percent higher. Councilman Catalano noted that he understands the residents’ feelings, and that a tentative plan for the money could be spelled out, as it is difficult to find that information.  

Supervisor Robusto responded that there are lots of different ways to approach budgets and asked for further comments; Councilman Catalano then asked about the “H” fund for Ginna, noting many residents may not be here in 2029 and aske if  the fund fair to them. Supervisor Robusto explained scenarios had been played out, and that the money being set aside would help minimize the impact to the tax payers over time. Councilman Leszyk likened it to a family budget with prudence and best practices, and said he’d like to focus on the positives of the budget and the involvement of the board members with the departments. Councilman Leszyk also noted that the budget is “available in unbelievable detail.

Linda Yancey commented that the budget will save residents money by setting up online payments and using money from existing H funds where possible to pay off remaining debt for the sewers. She also commended Supervisor Robusto for questioning the costs and money being spent to repair Palmer Hall. The hearing then closed at 7:36PM.

During the first Comments from the Public section, Jim Doyle addressed the   placement of a second Comments time;  he was told this is where it has always been on the agenda but cited several previous meeting dates where it was in a different place. Supervisor Robusto said it is at the discretion of the board as to where to place it, that lots of places do not allow residents to comment without submitting questions ahead of time, and that it will be kept this way unless the board decides to change it. 

Jim Switzer then spoke, citing a concern for the lack of house numbers, and  asked who has decided a person can speak only once during the public comment section. Supervisor Robusto responded that his is not a place for dialogue or public participation in meetings. A third resident asked if there is any intention to address what will happen if the Union Hill Fire Department goes out of business; Supervisor Robusto said he will look into this, and that it is his understanding that the fire department will not be affected, as it is separate from the ambulance service. 

- Consideration of on-call winter employee hire Michael Doyle for Marilee Stollery from November 1, 2018 – April 15, 2019 (beyond if needed) at $22.50/hour with no benefits was approved.

- Consideration of Parks and Rec seasonal labor hire Connor Hollenbeck from October 3, 2018 – March 31, 2019 at $12.50/hour with no benefits was approved.

- Consideration to permit Town Supervisor to submit audit for utilities and telecommunication, which allowed a Troy and Banks audit at no cost to look at saving the municipality money, was approved.

 During tComments,  Jim Switzer mentioned the Union Hill question, noting money needs to be put aside for the ambulance service and misinformation is not good; discussion ensued. Jim Doyle  noted that the fire department budget needs to be looked at. Lastly, a representative for the library noted a positive experience with having the audit service for the utilities. The session closed at 7:54PM. 

 During the Information Forum, Councilman Ruffell, TeWinkle, and Catalano commented on their opportunity to help at the Casey Park event on October 20. Councilman Leszyk commented on the budget and the how the town board’s approach was a good one, and noted that even without having detailed reports for the meeting, they are doing so much daily. Supervisor Robusto added that it is a budget everyone should be proud of, and also noted he helped at the Casey Park event. Councilman TeWinkle said he thought the budget went well, and Councilman Catalano said it was a good process, but noted again a suggestion to show where the money is going at different board meetings. He also noted he attended a class on solar energy for the planning board.

 The claims were approved, and board adjourned to an executive session at 8:04PM.

 By Emily Kunz

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