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Comptroller wants $4.2 million restored to budget

The Amherst comptroller wants $4.2 million restored to the proposed 2009 town budget to address what she described as overinflated revenue and underestimated expenses.

The current budget totals about $116 million with all board amendments adopted to date. But if all of Comptroller Darlene A. Carroll's recommendations are embraced by the Town Board, taxpayers would see a 6 percent increase in the tax levy -- the overall amount of money the town would need to raise in taxes next year.

"I believe that if the 2009 budget is adopted as it currently is, the town will face a crisis in 2009 and significant tax increases in 2010," she said in a five-page memo sent to board members.

The Town Board is scheduled to adopt the final budget during a special meeting Monday. The meeting includes a resolution by Carroll to reduce revenue projections for mortgage and sales tax receipts and building permit revenues.

"There are areas in the budget where the town supervisor was more optimistic with his revenue estimates than I would be," she stated.

The resolution also seeks to increase money for highway and sewer overtime accounts, union contract settlements, contingency and fund balance accounts, and health insurance. She recommended that $1.6 million be restored for health insurance costs alone, saying that the current budget figure assumes savings from a health care plan that have yet to be negotiated.

"It is not prudent to budget for unknown savings," she stated.

Some of Carroll's recommendations may be addressed in separate budget resolutions already sponsored by other board members, such as resolutions seeking to restore Highway Department overtime or add money to the town's emergency contingency accounts.

But others will need renewed examination, board members said.

Council Member Barry Weinstein described Carroll's resolution as a "budget buster" and said he plans to take another look at his own budget calculations. He and other board members said they may not agree with all of Carroll's assumptions but have big concerns.

Council Member Mark Manna said Carroll's report confirms his belief that Supervisor Satish Mohan's budget proposal is full of inflated revenues and underestimated costs.

"I've been saying from Day 1 that this is a fairy tale budget," Manna said. "It's a poor long-range plan. It's bad fiscal management."

He and Council Member Guy Marlette criticized fellow members for not passing a resolution a few weeks ago asking that Carroll issue a formal budget analysis for the board's review.

Mohan and Council Members Deborah Bruch Bucki, Weinstein and Shelly Schratz voted against the resolution, with some citing conflict-of-interest concerns because Carroll serves as both town comptroller and budget director under the supervisor.

Manna, Marlette and Council Member Daniel Ward voted in favor.

"This is the kind of information I think the comptroller has an obligation to provide to the board," Marlette said.


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