December 15, 2012

In My Opinion: E'town budget confirmed by audit

In response to the opinion piece written by former Town Councilman Ken Fenimore:

On Nov. 8, the Elizabethtown Town Council held a public hearing on the 2013 preliminary budget. The public hearing allows residents express their ideas and concerns regarding the budget, and also provides valuable information to the Town Council.

Copies of the 2013 budget were available prior to the public hearing.

The preliminary budget included a written explanation of the general budget items, including the general fund, highway fund and six special-district funds. I told the audience that the town budget includes more than 300 line items and that anyone with questions about specific lines should contact me and I would be willing to go over any parts of the budget with them.

I then asked the seven members of the public if they had any comments. Several people spoke about funding concerns for the library and ambulance squad. Several people also asked general questions, which members of the Town Council answered. (A video of the public hearing can be viewed on Charter Channel 16 on Fridays at 2 a.m., 10 a.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.)

Twelve days later, on Nov. 20, the Town Council approved the 2013 town budget. During that 12-day period, no one called or stopped by the Town Hall to ask about or express concerns about the budget.

On Tuesday, Nov. 27, an auditor from the New York State Comptroller’s Office conducted the required budget/tax-cap audit on the Elizabethtown 2013 budget. The state comptroller calculates the tax cap for Elizabethtown, and the Elizabethtown tax cap included a carryover from the previous year’s budget. A 6 percent drop in the tax levy, which was approved by the Town Council in November 2011, created this carryover.

The town’s 2013 budget came in under the state-mandated tax cap for Elizabethtown.

The auditor did find two errors in the previous year’s tax-cap calculation, which had been filed in October 2011 by the previous bookkeeper. These errors included a $43,021 pension deduction that should not have been taken and a $9,000 overstatement of revenue that the town never received.

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