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Saturday, November 5, 2016

Preliminary Budget - Part 3

During the October 27th special town board meeting, Councilman Miscione brought forward a discussion of the piping program budget.

Apparently, each year, Highway Superintendent Rick Sherman runs out of money to continue the piping program once the Drainage expense budget line is depleted, and he doesn’t have access to the revenue that is collected from the program so he is unable to continue piping even if the weather permits.

For those that may not know what the piping program is, let me explain. Any town resident outside the villages can get their name placed on a list to have piping installed in the ditch along your property line. The resident pays for the materials and the town highway department does the labor for free.

It is a nice benefit given to town residents; however, of late the NYS Comptroller has cited towns that still do this service because they feel it borders on a violation of the Gifts & Loans Clause of the NYS Constitution. Taxpayer dollars are used to pay for the free work performed by town highway employees which is basically done to provide aesthetic value to select properties.

While the piping program is a nice benefit to town residents, it may be something for the town board to discuss down the road particularly as available monies become limited.

At any rate, Supervisor Tyksinski’s solution was to move the piping program expense and revenue budget lines to the Highway Part Town fund.

Yeah, that should fix the problem! Pipe away, Rick...OR…maybe, not so fast! Perhaps you should first ask Supervisor Tyksinski how you are supposed to access the revenues before you buy more materials for piping.

I do believe that once an appropriation has been spent, if there is a need to use a revenue account to increase the expenditure budget line, one would have to go before the town board and ask for a resolution to transfer money from the revenue account to the expense account. (Psst...Rick, there is actually case law that states a Highway Superintendent can be held personally liable if he overspends an appropriation without board approval.)

So, before the Highway Superintendent can spend more than the budgeted appropriation for piping, he will need to ask the town board for a transfer resolution and the town board would also need to ascertain how much money is actually available in the revenue account prior to giving their approval.

So, on the surface, it would appear that it really doesn’t matter what fund is used for the piping, the same procedure would have to be followed before Rick can spend the revenue received from the program.

To his credit and probably not for the same reason that I would give, Supervisor Tyksinski did say that the piping program was better suited to be in the Highway Part Town fund rather than the General Whole Town fund and I agree.

I will get into the explanation in my next blog when I write what other “tweaking” was done to the General Whole Town “Drainage” budget line.



2 comments:

Anonymous said...

If the program is offered to all town residents (not just some exclusively) then I see no reason the Comptroller should have a problem with it. It improves property and improved property cannot be a bad thing.

Besides, the labor is already costing town residents every day whether or not they wash their trucks or plow, dig, or pick up leaves. Or put in ditch piping, either. Paying for the materials by the resident is to be expected.

New Hartford, NY Online said...

Anonymous,

I agree that the piping program is a nice benefit to town residents.

The problem is that the town is comprised of two village plus the residents who live outside of each village. General Wholetown funds cannot be used to pay for expenses since village taxpayers would be funding a benefit they do not receive.

For expenses outside the villages, a Part Town budget line must be used which is why Supervisor Tyksinski was correct in saying that the piping program needed to be moved to the Highway Part Town.

However, the comptroller is reading the NYS Constitution in concert with Town Law. The comptroller interprets the law to mean that "the Town’s statutory authority is generally limited to constructing improvements that will benefit the Town in general...and only incidentally benefits individual property owners.

Therefore, they feel that "Town officials should be able to demonstrate that any work performed — whether on roadside culverts and ditches, or on private property — is primarily for the good of the Town as a whole and not for the benefit of certain individuals".

So, as I stated in my blog, it may be a discussion that may need to be had by the town board at some point.