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Town Board Minutes 10/14/2010

Jonathan McKinney, Councilman
Denise Murphy McGraw, Councilwoman
Liz Orzel Kasper, Councilwoman
Julie McDonnell, Councilwoman
Joe Landry, Supervisor

Also present: Barbara A. Nottke, Deputy Town Clerk, Peter Scagnelli, Town Attorney, John Lubrant, Chief of Police, Matt Miller, Deputy Town Attorney, Richard Pollock, Superintendent of Water & Sewer, Frank Gavin, Superintendent of Highways, Paul Sebesta, Comptroller and Lori Peretti, Community Programs Coordinator.


        Supervisor Landry provided an itemized presentation of the Tentative Budget and began with this message:
“First, I would like to thank staff here at the Town for all their efforts in arriving at a tentative budget.  The development of a tentative budget requires input from numerous individuals here at the Town.  There are department heads who prepare and advocate for their own budget, and there are budget staff who provide assistance during the entire budgetary process.  I would like to thank our Town Comptroller, Paul Sebesta, and his staff, Valerie Peters, Sandy Busino, Margeaux Cusano for their advice, and help in organizing and presenting the tentative budget.  They were involved in all aspects of the tentative budget during the past two to three months, and their assistance was invaluable.  
Next, I would like to thank all the department heads.  They were responsible for the preparation of an initial budget, and each one of their presentations to me was very detailed, thoughtful and well organized.  We are very fortunate here in the Town to have such dedicated individuals leading our departments.  Every one of them worked very hard to present a responsible budget to continue to provide the services that our residents expect and deserve.  I also would like to thank these persons for their willingness to work with me to revise and amend their initial budgets to arrive at the tentative budget today.  It was hard work, and there were some hard decisions that were made.  I would like to thank Chief John Lubrant, Frank Gavin, Richard Pollock, Kathleen Matern, Bill Lawrence, Lori Peretti, Peter Scagnelli and Amy Houlihan.        
Finally, I would like to thank the other elected officials who presented their budgets.  They did a good job of expressing the goals and objectives of their offices, and I was pleased with our discussions and negotiations.  I would like to thank our Receiver of Taxes, Diane Percy, our Town Clerk, Helen Kopke, and our two Town Justices, Steven Swinton and Paul Zonderman.  

The budget that is before the Town Board tonight continues to deliver the services that our residents expect, while keeping costs down for our taxpayers.   Over the past year, I have been honored to serve as your Town Supervisor.  While performing my day to day duties in Town Hall, I have been lucky to meet many of you and to learn what is most important to you as residents of Niskayuna. This budget reflects these priorities – the importance of public safety and emergency services, continuing to provide yard-waste pick-up, the necessity of snow plowing, maintaining our water and sewer system, maintaining our town roads, improving our youth and community programs and enhancing our senior services.  These and other quality services that our residents have come to expect will continue to be provided.
In developing a budget, I have to recognize that there are costs that are increasing that must be provided for.  This year, significant cost increases for retirement contributions and health care insurance continue to put a financial strain on the Town’s finances.  As everyone is aware, these are concerns that all governments, businesses and individuals are facing in this difficult time.  I want to assure you that I appreciate the burden that all taxpayers and residents are facing this year and I have worked very hard to minimize adding more pain to all of our households.
 Over the past year, we have looked for creative solutions to improve services, while keeping costs down, and keeping our tax increase to a reasonable level. Working with Councilwoman McGraw, Chair of the Transportation and Public Facilities Committee, and Public Works Committee, we have implemented a new program to replace all commercial and residential water meters, and we have continued our yard waste pick-up program and our road maintenance program.  
While keeping costs down is essential, ensuring that our residents are safe and have access to emergency services is critical.  This past year we established a new bicycle patrol in our Police Department.  This new patrol has enabled our officers to become readily noticed and recognized and to really become part of the community as they provide services from a bicycle rather than a patrol vehicle.  Also, this type of patrol will help our Department move forward and focus on preventing and reducing crime-however large or small- ensuring enhanced traffic and pedestrian safety, and of course responding to calls for assistance.
Previous organizational changes that occurred in the 2008 budget continue to bear fruit as the programs available to our youth expand.  
Together with Councilwoman McDonnell, who Chairs the Education, Parks and Recreation Committee, we have continued to build on our recreation and youth programs, offering more opportunities for children and young adults in fitness and wellness programs, recreation and summer playground camps, trips, and through improving our relationships with the various clubs – such as baseball, lacrosse, soccer, and softball, and in beginning new relationships with other clubs and organizations – like cricket, and Niskayuna Warrior basketball.  We will look to do even more in the upcoming year to meet the needs of our youth and young adults.
In the area of senior programming, this budget sets forth two new initiatives which I strongly believe will improve and enhance our commitment to move senior programming forward.  
This budget allocates monies for a down payment for the purchase of a new bus for use by the seniors.  I intend to ask the other Board members to support this appropriation and to provide the remainder of the funding for this bus purchase in a future bonding resolution.  The need for a new bus was brought to our attention by several seniors who now use the current bus.  I would like to thank them for attending Town Board meetings and speaking at privilege of the floor, and I am pleased to advocate on their behalf for a new bus.
Additionally, this budget provides for increased funding in order to bring on additional staff in the Senior Programming department.  I believe that new resources are necessary in this department so that we can provide additional programs and services.  I have been approached by many seniors in Town who have asked that we undertake new and different programs.  I have listened to their concerns and I happen to agree with their request.  I have added an additional $32,000 for staff in the senior department to accomplish that objective.
There have been some concerns expressed that existing programs and existing staff at the senior center will be compromised.  That is not my intention.  This budget simply increases monies to budget lines so that new programs and staff can be added, and it is not intended to have any impact upon the current programming and staff.
The goal is, very simply, to provide our residents with better services.   
In conclusion, I believe that the budget I have proposed balances the need to provide the best possible services to our residents, with the recognition of the fiscal situation that the Town and all of our residents are facing. “
During the course of his presentation, Supervisor Landry mentioned that a question that comes up often is the amount in the Town fund balance. He explained the actual amount is not achieved until the closing of the year and that figure would not be available until the following April. However, if you look at 2005 through 2009, the fund balance has gone up and down between $659,000 to over $900,000. In the years mentioned, if you look at Highway costs, percentages have been kept to the 7%-8% range which has allowed us to keep a pretty stable fund balance throughout the years and we are trying to continue to maintain a stable fund balance.  
Councilwoman McDonnell concurred that anything above 5% as a rule of thumb for bond agencies is considered good practice for keeping a stable fund balance and asked about the Town’s recent bond rating. Supervisor Landry answered the Town was recently reviewed and given a high rating.
As for the effect this budget will have to the average home owner, or owning a home of about $274,000, the average increase would be $18.50 per house for the year or a 3% increase.  
Supervisor Landry announced the schedule for the budget workshops, the first being tonight; October 19th, October 26th, the budget hearing on November 10th and the budget adoption on November 18th.


XXXX Pawtucket Ave, asked if the budget presentation and the Tentative Budget will be posted on the web site. Supervisor Landry replied that the Adopted Budget will be posted on the web site as the Tentative is still a work in progress. She commented on the budget not being a big increase and said she was glad to live in the Town of Niskayuna and not have the situation Schenectady has. She has a concern that since the City of Schenectady is laying off fire fighters, the Fire Departments might be looking for more help than we can provide.

XXXX Brookshire Drive, was upset that a special meeting was not indicated on the web site. She wanted to be sure she had plenty of time to comment on the temporary budget to make changes in the budget.
Supervisor Landry assured the audience the town was in compliance with all open meetings law. Meeting dates are posted and provided to the media.


The following resolution was approved with a vote of five ayes unless otherwise noted.

Resolution 2010-215 amends resolution 2009-133 regarding authorizing the superintendent of water and sewer to retain an engineering form for the preparation of bid documents for the Whitney Drive water main replacement project.

There being no further business to come before the Town Board, Supervisor Landry adjourned the meeting.

                                                Barbara A. Nottke, Deputy Town Clerk

One Niskayuna Circle, Niskayuna, NY 12309
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