Story by Lourice Angie
The Warwick Town Board opened their general monthly meeting on Thurs., Oct. 26 with a public hearing to consider the adoption of proposed local law #1 of 2017 to exceed the two percent property tax cap. Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton explained that when the state enacted the NYS tax cap legislation, it required municipalities to remain at a designated two percent tax cap, which generally proves to be at or just under two percent. They also gave municipalities and school districts the ability to override the cap if they deemed it necessary. It only requires three of five Board members to vote affirmative to override it.
Sweeton said it is never the Board’s intention to override a tax cap because the Town has always met the cap, with the exception of last year. As the Board tackles budgets and increases, it becomes harder to make investments and remain in contractual obligation. As a safety precaution, the Board holds a public hearing and takes a vote on the acting local law.
Current Status of Warwick Town Budget
At the public hearing, Supervisor Sweeton gave a presentation on the 2018 tentative Town budget. He explained that the Town presents two budgets. One is a tentative budget assembled by Sweeton based on what various departments put forth and believe will be needed to do their jobs adequately. Each department anticipates having more resources available in order to accomplish their tasks, but generally this ends up being less than the amount desired because the Board cannot afford to present this to taxpayers.
Supervisor Sweeton gave a breakdown of tentative budget numbers. Revenues are slightly elevated but the Town is using lesser surplus funds, money accumulated because some revenues come in higher than expected. The Town surplus has diminished significantly since the crisis of 2008-09, which means less money is getting applied to the budget each year.
The main budget, which includes total expenses excluding special districts like the Water or Sewer Departments, is projected at $19,500,454, although this number is anticipated to be less once the budget is completed.
Sweeton said the tentative budget introduced on Sept., 30, 2017 is at 15.5% or about $150 dollars for the average household. Today after initial cuts, it is at 7.7% or about $60 dollars for the average household. Sweeton said that is close to a million dollar cut so far.
How to Get Under the Cap
Supervisor Sweeton explained that most of the budget increase is due to personnel costs, payroll and fringes. To get under the cap, the Board needs to cut an additional $650,000.
Here is what the Board is looking at to determine where to make the cuts:
- General Government: leaving one full time position unfilled in 2018.
- Police Officers: Police Officers currently run five area posts 24/7, of which one and a half by contract remain in the Village of Warwick. Eliminating one officer equates to saving about $160,000 or about a $22/average per household. This would entail running less than three shifts in the Town areas outside the Villages area of 92 sq. miles.
- Highway Personnel: In 2011, four Department of Public Works employees and one snow plow route were eliminated. Currently, thirteen plow routes that take about four hours each to complete still remain. Eliminating one more snow plow route increases the current route time to five to six hours and saves $95,000 or $13/average per household.
Additional cuts include: Dispatch Service currently operates 24/7 for the Police Department as well as the Warwick and Pine Island Fire Department, and Warwick, Pine Island, and Greenwood Lake Ambulance. County 911 cannot handle all Town calls without substantial hiring and the Town is responsible for the costs. The current cost of Town Dispatch is $800,000.
“Assuming we could save half of that cost after paying the County and having some of the police department staff handle walk-in’s, the potential savings estimate would be $400,000 or $45 dollars per household,” said Sweeton.
Other possible eliminations include park closings and contributions to the three Village Recreation Programs, which would save $178,300 and $128,160, respectively. Senior Citizen Programming could save $36,400.
The Process Continues
The Board continues to look for savings and is committed to maintaining public safety, which includes road maintenance at the highest levels while maintaining the fiscal health of the community. The Board will continue its successful record of shared service agreements, grant funding and productivity gains to keep budgets affordable.
The Board will meet and review the preliminary budget and hold a public hearing on the budget on Thurs., Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the Warwick Town Hall, located at 132 Kings Hwy. in Warwick.
Small Business Saturday
Supervisor Sweeton made a motion to adopt Sat., Nov. 25 as Small Business Saturday in the Town of Warwick. Residents are encouraged to buy local and enjoy coordinated events in the downtown business district. Small business Saturday is sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday and was created to attract shoppers to buy locally nationwide.
Friendly Visitor Program
Warwick resident Vince Coppello from the Friendly Visitor Program reported that the amount of current neighbors in the program was 66, an increase of 34 percent since last month. The current number of volunteers is 44 and the total number of services provided by volunteers is 144, which shows an increase of 40 percent since last month. The program has only been in existence for the last four months. The goal is to try to reach 100 people in the program by the end of December.
Supervisor Sweeton acknowledged the article about the Friendly Visitor Program in the Warwick Valley Dispatch and said he anticipates having the word spreading additionally. Sweeton says that if anyone knows a senior or someone with disabilities who requires help with appointments or simple chores to call the Town Hall at 986-1124.
The program is offered free of charge thanks to the Warwick Rotary, which is funding the program for the first year. Sweeton commended Coppello and Councilman Floyd DeAngelo, the Board liaison to the group, and all of the Board members for the hard work. “We hope the program really does fill a gap. We have 8,000 plus seniors in the Town of Warwick and we know not all of the seniors participate in senior programs. We want to help them remain in place as long as they can and this service will hopefully allow them to do that,” said Sweeton.
Special Thanks to K9 Officers
Warwick Police Lt. John Rader announced that the Police Department would like to recognize their two K9 officers and their respective partners. Two weeks ago, Warwick hosted a K9 competition with 12 to 15 police departments from the area. A total of 40 dogs competed.
Both Warwick K9 dogs tied for first place. As the awards were handed out during the presentation, the Warwick Police Department was investigating a report of a missing resident of Kings Estates who suffers from dementia.
Lt. Rader said all 40 dogs and their handlers responded to the Kings Estates call and began searching for the missing man. They successfully found the resident, who had been missing for approximately five hours. After being found, he was checked out by EMTs and returned home safely to his wife. All this happened on what was coincidentally also on the couples 59th wedding anniversary.
Lt. Rader not only wanted to recognize the Warwick Police Department for achieving the awards, but he thanked everyone who helped out that day saying, “It was quite the response.”
Supervisor Sweeton told Lt. Rader, “It is a good story. Congratulate them on our behalf.”
Acupuncture for Pets with Pam Schultz DMV will be held on Sun., Nov. 12 at the Warwick Humane Society, located at 48 Public Works Rd. in Warwick. The cost is $25 for a 25 minute session by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, call 986-2473.
Pet Photos with Santa will be taken on Sat., Nov. 18 and Sun., Nov. 19 from 12 to 3 p.m. with professional photographer John Walker and a new background scene hand painted by Walter Ross. Children in dress up are welcome and the event which will be held rain or shine. The cost is $10 for one photo, $18 for two photos and $25 for three photos. All proceeds benefit the homeless animals at the shelter.