Rotterdam’s $22.67 million budget for 2016 has become final, but only by default.
Rotterdam Comptroller Jacqueline Every said the state deadline for most towns to adopt their budgets was Nov. 20, and because the municipality hadn’t by then, Supervisor Harry Buffardi’s proposed budget automatically moved forward.
“This happened last year, too,” Buffardi on Monday said of the board’s tendency to have split votes.
The four-member Town Board has worked to compromise on split votes for more than a year after Michael Viscusi resigned from his position in October 2014, which created the deadlock.
Republican Councilmen Joseph Villano and Rick Larmour currently hold seats on the board along with Buffardi and Deputy Supervisor Wayner Calder, who are both Democrats.
The divide continued with a fight over next year’s budget, as the document wasn’t even put up for a vote because of tense disagreements about the town’s funds after Buffardi presented it to the board in late October.
Rotterdam’s now-final budget has a tax levy increase of 1.86 percent.
“In 2015, our tax levy was $11,973,002, and for 2016 it went to $12,196,109,” Every said. “That’s the 1.86 percent increase.”
Last year, Every said, a $200,000 home in Rotterdam would have had a town tax bill of about $683.25, but in 2016, the same resident will have a bill of $743.06, or an increase of $59.81. That’s approximately an increase of 8.75 percent.
“The levy meets property tax guidelines, so eligible homeowners should receive the rebates they’re entitled to,” the comptroller said of the state’s tax cap.
“I wanted to present a budget that included enough money without breaking the tax cap that would allow government to move forward in 2016,” Buffardi said. “I feel that was achieved, as there’s no layoffs or cut in service.”
Villano, who opposed Buffardi’s budget with fellow Councilman Larmour, argues that the budget should have been cut more to reduce the burden on homeowners.
Villano said he and Larmour were “frozen out” of the budget process, as they weren’t included in any meetings or discussions.
“We didn’t have any public budget workshops, which is the same way we always do it,” Buffardi said Tuesday. “Wayne Calder and I had a number of meetings with department heads to establish the budget, and if we invited a third person, it would require a public announcement of the meeting.
“It was my administrative responsibility to propose an efficient budget, and I feel we did,” he said.
Villano said he offered proposals at the Oct. 22 meeting that would have reduced the town budget by $1 million. “It fell on deaf ears,” Villano said.
Villano also has accused the town of unlawfully transferring money, and plans to request an audit of the comptroller’s office.
Buffardi said an independent audit was done of the budget when it was presented in October, but the documents from the inspection weren’t good enough for Villano.
“I don’t understand the accusation at all,” Buffardi said of Villano on Wednesday. “I think he likes to use inflammatory language to increase his soap box.”
Steven Tommasone, an Independent, will replace Buffardi as town supervisor Jan. 1. Also joining the board are Conservative Evan Christou and Democrat Samantha Miller-Herrera, bringing the board back up to five members.
Buffardi said the budget is a living document and making changes is in their hands.
Villano is uncertain if things will improve under Tommasone.
“I’m hopeful I can somehow bridge the gap philosophically with him,” Villano said of the incoming leadership. “I’m interested to see where Steve is going to go on many issues. Perhaps my budget is considered after all.”
“I believe there are some changes that can be made, and we’ll negotiate those after the first of the year,” Tommasone said of the budget. “I’m hopeful we’ll be able to agree and come up with changes that make sense without making it a political or negative discussion that will be substantive.
“Whatever decision we make will have the best interest of the town and taxpayers in mind,” he said.
Reach Gazette reporter Kate Seckinger at 395-3113, [email protected] or @KateSeckinger on Twitter.
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