?Did it really save us money?'

| 22 Feb 2012 | 03:33

    When is zero percent not zero percent? When it will cost you more money in the long run. Not looking at the whole picture can cost you a lot more than you think. In a Times Herald-Record editorial on Dec. 9, entitled “Rain day fund has to stay dry,” and in another article the next day ,“Tapping Reserves worries some Sullivan County legislators,” some very good points are made about this very subject. The Town of Monroe never has the complete answer for any budget until the end of April when the Annual Update Document (AUD) is filed. Then and only then will we know for sure what ALL our revenues and expenditures really were and be able to compare them to our actual projection. When you are $100,000 short in Mortgage Recording Tax as revenue, you have to save $100,000 just to get even before you really start to “save” money. While it is true that you can actually save money in individual line items, what really matters is the bottom line and until you add it all up, you don’t know. Hiring a new assessor at less than half the amount with no benefits sounds really good, but we had to hire four other people in that department. And making that department state of the art from paper and pencil cost a pretty penny that was not in the budget because we had not expected to do this project this year. I am in no way criticizing anyone for doing it because we needed to do it, but did it really save us money total over all? I think not. Saving hundreds of thousands on consultants is relative. The attorney was paid $126,413 and benefits were about $15,550 which comes to $141,913 and the current attorney is $115,000. That’s a savings of $26,000. The savings on the engineering firms is very hard to compare from year to year because you never do exactly the same amount of work every year and with the recession projects have fallen off considerably. You can’t compare years when you did a lot of work to years where you haven’t done much. So how do you compare apples to oranges? We theoretically saved money in the Superintendent of Highways line, but a retroactive raise and longevity pay for the highway department ate up those savings plus other monies in the department. I thought there was about $35K that could have been cut from the budget and that about $100,000 less in fund balance should have been used. We built fund balance over the years when times were good. I just want to protect it until we’re out of the woods, which may not be possible. Each budget must stand on its own and every year is different. Also with the garbage district fee being reduced this year, we actually saved people money when this special district was factored into the equation. Anyone going the zero percent route has found out that it can be painful the very next year when you try to provide the same services and build or maintain fund balance at the same time. When the AUD is filed, I will present the numbers to the board and the public. Sandy Leonard Supervisor, Town of Monroe