The tentative 2012 town budget increases spending by about $800,000, with most of the increase going toward new equipment and personnel for the town Highway Department to improve its snowplowing efforts.
The additional money in the $8.6 million draft can be taken from surplus funds and other revenue, without any increase in the property tax, town Supervisor Paul Sausville said.
The town has a property tax levy of 1 cent per $1,000 assessed value, for ambulance services. There is no property tax for highway or general services. Some $438,000 is being taken from surplus funds to cover the proposed spending increase, a practice Sausville acknowledged would be “unsustainable” over the long run.
Sausville acknowledged the spending increase in the proposed budget is significant, but said “it’s mostly for core services.”
Specifically, Sausville said he’s looking to improve the town’s performance clearing streets and roads during snowstorms. Currently, the “beats” covered by plow drivers during a storm take about five hours to complete, Sausville said.
“If it’s a big storm, that means a lot more snow can accumulate. We want to reduce that time to three or four hours,” he said.
The proposed solution includes buying an additional plow-equipped highway truck and creating a position of “working supervisor” in the Highway Department.
The plan would also replace what has been a policy of hiring two full-time seasonal employees during the winter. It would eliminate those positions and replace them with four positions for “on-demand” employees, who would report to work only when called in during a storm.
Sausville said a similar call-in arrangement works in Wilton, and he believes farmers or retired people would be interested in filling the positions.
“I think this will give us better capabilities, if we can fill the positions,” Sausville said.
The town has about 70 miles of road to plow, including 5.5 miles that have opened this year in the Luther Forest Technology Campus.
Another spending increase is $42,000 in additional money in the proposed contracts with the Malta Ridge and Round Lake fire companies for further study of a proposed downtown fire station. There are questions about financing, ownership and other issues that need to be answered before the project could go forward, Sausville said. “I think everyone conceptually agrees that it’s a need. The question is how to get there,” he said.
The tentative budget also includes a 2 percent cost-of-living increase on the first $39,400 in salary for all town employees. That figure is the mean town salary, so the proposal means people earning less than that will receive a 2 percent raise, while those earning more — department heads and other senior employees — will receive a smaller raise.
“We think the [cost of living allowance] is fair, or at least I do,” Sausville said.
The Town Board will be discussing that and other aspects of the proposal in a series of four workshops to be held this month. The board can make changes to the tentative budget prior to its adoption, which must be by Nov. 20.
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