By Michael DePietro
The Lewiston Town Board held a Nov. 7 public hearing on its 2020 $18,463,867 preliminary budget. The numbers represent a $336,238 (1.85%) increase over the 2019 budget. However, the plan also shows a projected 0.47% tax decrease.
Town Clerk/Tax Collector Donna Garfinkel opened the hearing with the proposed salaries of elected officials. For 2020, these include highway superintendent, $72,989; town clerk, $62,359, two town justices at $28,495 each; and four councilmembers at $14,410. The supervisor’s salary is listed as $43,583; however, it includes an asterisk denoting Supervisor Stephen Broderick accepts a salary of $30,000 due to New York earnings limitations on retirees.
The only resident comments came from Paulette Glasgow, who began by asking for clarification on the proposed increases. Town Finance/Budget Director Jacqueline Agnello said they were spread out through “pretty much every fund.”
“We had 2% salary increases for every union; our property insurance went up 5%; our fire protection-contractual – and other worker’s comp – went up; and actually, even though that ($336,238) was an increase over last year, it’s only a 1.85% increase,” Agnello said.
“So, there was significant reduction in other spending areas to cover the increases that were out of our control,” she added.
Glasgow followed up by asking what effect the increases would have on property taxes. Agnello said property taxes are slated to go down by 0.47%. She noted, “We are not going over the tax cap this year, either.”
Finally, Glasgow asked whether the town was going to implement a fund balance policy.
In July, the auditing firm Drescher & Malecki LLP said it was “imperative” the town implement such a policy, citing opportunities for interest earnings.
Agnello said the fund balance policy is being worked on, and she will have an update at the next board meeting.
Glasgow wrapped up her comments by complimenting Agnello on the work she has done, specifically in regard to crafting and implementing a fund balance policy.
Agnello offered her own appreciation for how well the board and the department heads were able to work together on financial issues. Broderick complimented Drescher & Malecki on its work, as well.
Councilman Alfonso Bax articulated the sentiment in the room, saying, “I think a lot of (the budgetary success) has to do with having the information, and getting legitimate answers. You know it took the last several years to know where the money was being spent and where it was being wasted, cutting down on the waist and ultimately having information in front of us so we can make those smart decisions. So … I think everyone deserves the credit, and I think we’ve got the right team in place, that’s for sure.”
No other action was taken on the budget. The next regular Town Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 25.