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State of New York

County of Fulton

Town of Caroga

Minutes of a Caroga Town Board meeting held Wednesday November 4, 2020 at the municipal building located at 1840 State Highway #10 at 7:00 pm with the following persons in attendance by roll call. The flag salute followed.

Supervisor Scott Horton - Here

Council Member John Glenn – Here

Council Member James Long - Here

Council Member Richard Sturgess - Here

Council Member Donald Travis - Here

Supervisor Horton, Council Members Glenn, Sturgess, and Travis were in the meeting room Council Member Long accessed the meeting remotely. Joanne Young –Bookkeeper and Budget Officer was also in attendance as were four members of the public, there were 20 members of the public total signed in using ZOOM. Tor Shekerjian – Confidential Secretary to the Supervisor facilitated the ZOOM meeting.

Supervisor Horton stated the meeting was open for public comment on the budget. Mr. Shekerjian gave instruction on how to be acknowledged to ask a question using Zoom.

The Budget Officer handed out a three-page document dated November 4, 2020 as follows:

Budget Meeting November 4, 2020

General Account

Revenues Budgeted $1,172,292.00

to date (10/31) $1,194,786.00

Over $ 22,494.00

Revenues expected thru December

$23,000 Steward

$54,400 Bike Trail

$15,000 Codes, Justice, & Clerk

Added $ 92,400

Overage $ 114,894

Expenditures Budgeted $1,482,696 to date (10/31) $ 910,850

Under $ 571,846

Expenditures expected thru December

$33,000 Golf Reconciliation

$35,000 fund reserves

$60,000 payroll

$26,000 retirement

$40,000 bills

$25,000 misc

Total $219,000

Expected expenditures to Dec 31 $ 1,096,850

Under budget $ 352,846

Reserves at end of 2020

Weed Harvester $55,000

Capital fund $75,000

Garbage Truck $45,000

Total $175,000 in reserves

Expected Estimated Fund balance at end of 2020 $ 841,000

Highway Fund (DA)

Revenues Budgeted $ 804,179

to date (10/31) $693,525

Under $ 110,654.00

Revenues expected thru December

$116,000 CHIPS

Added $ 116,000

Overage $ 5,346

Expenditures Budgeted $1,010,080 to date (10/31) $ 698,220

Under $311,860

Expenditures expected thru December

$10,000 fund reserves

$65,000 payroll

$48,000 retirement

$25,000 bills

$15,000 misc

Total $163,000

Expected expenditures to Dec 31 $ 861,220

Under budget $ 148,860

Reserves at end of 2020

Equipment Reserve $20,000

Total $20,000 in reserves

Expected Estimated Fund balance at end of 2020 $ 135,000

Several board members wanted to first make comments.

Mr. Travis noted he ran for office to make improvements at town hall and the golf course. It takes money to do these things. He wanted to begin these projects in the spring. He thought the improvements at the golf course would bring more people into town.

Council member Sturgess did not have any comments at this time.

Council Member Glenn read an e-mail response sent by Supervisor Horton to a concerned resident. He stated the journey to turn the Town around, has to start some time. He has seen very little progress in the 15 years he has been back to Caroga. He referenced the $30,0000.00 shed built without power. The lack of a plan to replace highway equipment, a golf course and Town hall building that have been ignored, the need for a Town Garage and salt shed, and the threat of invasive species to our lakes. “The percentage increase is high, but the cost is not when you look at the cost of not doing things.” Council Member Glenn stated we have to move forward.

Council Member Long has maintained that the town is likely to have a very significant fund balance at the end of this year. The numbers recently released are similar to the ones calculated by Doug Purcell and James Selmser. Council Member Long had a long conversation with the Office of the State Comptroller. They reinforced that the town has too large of a fund balance. They recommend having a balance enough to fund the town in January and February – until the tax revenue begin to come in. His calculations show an excess of $600,000.00. He believes these funds should be used to bring the tax rate down as not to go over the tax cap. Supervisor Horton interrupted saying he would get into what to do after the board has heard from the public. It was noted that unrestricted funds in the general account can be moved into the highway fund.

The Town clerk wanted to clarify that the office hours were not changed recently. Back in June limited hours were put into place due to the Covid19 situation. “I work for you the people and am available 18/7.” The clerk’s home phone number is in the town directory. She noted that the hours posted online for the town justice are currently incorrect.

Supervisor Horton stated there is some really good news for the people. The board worked really hard on this budget. We now have much better data. The Budget Director worked all day on the budget. The Supervisor encouraged the public to use town’s data. A document dated 11/4 was being reviewed tonight. Council Member Long asked if that was a public document. He stated he will post it on the website now.

Joanne Young – Budget Officer reviewed her new data calculations. A document was put together based on the revenue that was budgeted for the year and how much was actually received for this year. She has done both the general account and the highway (DA) account. We were fortunate in our sales tax this year – it was a lot more than what was budgeted. To date we have received $22,494.00 more revenue than was budgeted for 2020. There are more revenues coming in through the end of the year. This includes the Steward Grant, the bike trail reimbursement and the code, justice, and town clerk department fees collected from now until the end of the year. The expected revenue is about $92,400. Over all the expected revenues to be $114,894.00 over what was budgeted. This allows us to add to our fund balance. There has been discussion on how much fund balance is in the general account. The Budget Officer stated we have to plan on the lower side it is better to be above at the end of the year getting additional revenues. The other part of the budget is expenditures. The 2020 budget was for $1,482,696.00. Current to date as of October 31st instead of the 9/15 (figure on the budget) have been $910,850.00. Now we are under budget by about $571,846.00. She stated there are expenditures to be paid out from now until the end of December. There will be a reconciliation with the golf course. The town board has agreed to fund reserves that were in the 2020 budget. There are four more payrolls and payroll taxes, there is retirement payment due in December, and the monthly bills for November and December. The expected expenditure for the end of the year is around $219,000.00. This will put us at about $1,096,850.00. The Budget Officer reiterated that we had budgeted expenditures at $1,482,696.00. We are under budget for the 2020 expenditures at about $352,846.00. This is a good thing. She noted some line items have a higher budget limit because we just don’t know what might happen. Buildings was used as an example. She stated there is rollover in that account. There are things that were not used but you have to plan for unexpected expenditures. Based on last year’s budget the Budget Officer noted “we did not, technically touch the fund balance amount that we were planning to offset with the taxes raised vs what our expected revenue was.” The estimated fund balance that the town is looking at for the end of 2020, with the funding of the reserves, we would have $175,000.00 in designated reserves, but we also have around $841,000.00 in undesignated fund balance which can be used for whatever purpose might come up but also to offset the tax rate.

The Budget Officer ran the same type of numbers for the highway account. For revenue what the town had budgeted was $804,179.00 to date 10/31 we had received $693,525.00. We are under our projections so far. We haven’t yet gotten reimbursement for the summer road work from the state. When we get those funds the Budget Officer stated we should be over budget by about $5,346.00.

She noted we are under budget for the personnel line item. Until December 31st expenditures are estimated at $163,000.00. That will put us at $861,220.00 compared to what we had budgeted at $1,010,080.00 we will still be under budget by about $148,860.00. A lot of work has been done in house this year, so there is a lot of rollover in expenditures lines not going to their full amount.

At the end of 2020 “because the board has said they want to fund reserves,” we will have $20,000.00 in a designated equipment reserve. The estimated fund balance at the end of 2020 for the Highway DA account will be around $135,000.00.

Supervisor Horton pointed out one thing. When they were looking at the fund balance in the beginning it had $600,000.00. They missed it only by about $20,000.00. “We didn’t have the $215,000.00 off of $841,000.00. He urged the public to use these numbers.

Council Member Long stated the document being circulated is now online – town of Caroga – documents – finances- budgets.

Art Wadsworth his question was a $25,000.00 miscellaneous amount. (Refers to 11/4 doc.) The Budget Officer stated it was not a budget item. She put it in as a possible expenditure. She noted the health insurance policy renews on December 1st. as part of the contract is that the town funds part of the HRA. We don’t know if people go to the doctors in December, they haven’t met their deductible so we don’t know the cost. She might have put it high.

At this time the Supervisor reiterated that the public hearing on the budget was opened (7:28 pm)

Alan Fiedler – gave an introduction and offered a four-point recommendation. He stated the current challenges seem to be arising in part, from Caroga’s reliance on a large catch all unrestricted fund balance rather than on a long-term comprehensive reserve fund and plan.

Limit the town tax increase this year to the 1.6% cap.

Fund the existing short fall from the existing fund balance. As Mr. Purcell and Mr. Selmser have shown that Supervisor Horton’s proposed $290,000.00 fund balance draw down has increased to $487,000.00. Our 2021 Budget is in balance.

Over the next year develop a long term thoughtfully planned fully funded comprehensive reserve fund with specific line items and greatly reduce our present reliance on this large unrestricted catch all fund balance.

Revisit the possibility of a tax increase next year taking into the account the soon to be developed long term reserve fund point.

Jane Davis - put something on chat not sure the board saw it. They would like to echo Alan’s plan.

She has run a condo association in the past, a reserve fund makes sense for unforeseen maintenance. It is sound advice and a great strategy. There have been antidotal [sic, anecdotal] comments at this meeting and at Saturday’s meeting about the cost to tax payers if the board goes down the path of not using the fund balance. The phrase “the cost of a dinner for two,” was used. She cautioned using phrases like that without concrete data, our tax bills are all different. You can’t say that everyone will get a $100.00 increase in their tax bill. The comment minimizes the issue. She appreciated James Long calling the Comptroller, and for the work done by the Supervisor and Budget Officer.

Mr. Davis if the board determines after setting up reserve funds and you are sure you have enough working capital after the first of the year. If there are excess funds, it boils down to two choices in his mind set aside money to lower the property tax rate or paying down some of the town’s debt with the excess money.

Council Member Long thanked the Davises. Supervisor Horton stated he was running the meeting and also thanked the Davis family for their comments.

The Supervisor didn’t mean to be flippant with his comments. The information that got out early was very misleading. People were concerned their taxes were going to double. The Supervisor was trying to give a ball park figure based on $100,000.00 assessment. The Supervisor noted there are 2310 parcels in the town of Caroga assessed at or below $100,000.00, and 492 greater than $100,000.00.

The Supervisor also wanted to avoid debt. He stated the town currently has two payments on a highway truck for $70,000.00 and for a mower at a cost of $20,000. For a total of $90,000.00.

Council Member Glenn noted the Supervisor did bring up that he wanted to pay down and pay off the truck bonds. This was not done because of the size of the budget.

Andy Healey noted the amount of work with budgets. We have to trust the board they are making the best call they can. He stated a large unrestricted budget doesn’t make sense if there are things ear marked for a long-term plan. There is more comfort in having a larger rainy-day fund for reserve. He asked for an explanation to the town why there is there a need to have such a high reserve, and why would we want to continue to add to it.

Supervisor Horton stated the unrestricted fund balance is quite large. He has been doing reading from the Comptroller’s Office. It will be a talking point and hopefully action on the board’s part next year. The way the Supervisor has it figured is there are several capital programs that the town will have to address in the next ten years. We can keep saving or bond. The Supervisor estimates the Town hall, Town Garage and a salt shed projects would cost two and a half million dollars in capital expenses. This does not include the golf course. This is why he didn’t want to take too much money out of the fund balance.

Council Member Glenn asked if there wasn’t a major disaster within the last two years where they had to bust the budget. Joanne Young responded last year to get through the end of the year to meet the expenditures, while waiting for the CHIPS payment, was the board amended the budget to receive $100,000.00 of sales tax revenue for the third quarter to fund year end expenses until property taxes money came in. Historically the highway account has not had huge fund balance. The town has to pay for the CHIPS services until they get the reimbursement. Council Member Glenn was concerned that hugely expensive equipment is being left outside to decay in the environment. He wanted to come up with a plan to establish a town barn to house all the equipment. The Budget Officer noted the Highway Barn is part of the General account. This hasn’t been addressed because we wanted to keep the taxes low.

Supervisor Horton noted the highway garage had to buy a used plow and rebuild a dump body to save the taxpayers money.

Council Member Sturgess noted we know we are going to have massive expenses in the next 6 – 10 years. We just have to find a way to allocate the money to them. This is why we are concerned about wiping out the fund balance. ©J.Long

Deborah Price thanked Joanne for coming up with these numbers and putting in the time to help the public understand better the finances. She wanted to bring the attention back to Doug Purcell and James Selmser who if they had not brought this to the board’s attention that the board would not have spent the time discover these new numbers. She thanked the previous speakers and agrees with Mr. Fiedler’s four-point recommendations. She was concerned as to why these new numbers have taken so long to come to us. She hopes and encourages the board to follow the idea of coming together and working on this budget much sooner. She also noted her comments to the board about the ZOOM issues. She is concerned that the town cannot handle a video so the public can see the board. She stated that 200 million people use ZOOM every day. She offered her help but didn’t know why they would possibly need it. If you can’t handle this, what then is the board’s competence in handling other major systems?

Supervisor Horton interrupted stating this was a budget hearing. Mrs. Price stated the fact that this is something so simple to embrace and work on. She stated there are excuses for why it can’t be. Her concern is the blame and excuses on how the other previous board members haven’t done ….

Moving forward she hopes the board has learned and will take the public speaker’s guidance and get it together in the budget process now.

Al Kozakiewicz did not have strong feelings one way or the other about this. He noted that fund balances should be used to help manage cash flow issues and for the unexpected expense. He thought the money should be used to replace bridges so the town does not have to close roads for multiple years. He did not think it was a good practice to use the fund balance for capital projects. He preferred to see bonding. The reason is the cost should be borne by the people who would benefit from it – not prior tax payers.

Mr. Davis addressed capital expenditure from a previous speaker. He didn’t think fund surplus money should be ear marked for capital projects that are conversational right now. Excess fund money should be ear marked reserves and short-term needs. The Town should have a vision, a longer-term vision. He believed the various department heads need to get together with the board and put a plan together based on priority. This should be presented to the taxpayer/citizens for their approval or interest. The town should have all the tools they need to operate, they should protect the assets, and have up to date offices. “You have to have a plan.”

Supervisor Horton stated many months ago he did address the public in a general fashion to let the public know that we were thinking along those same exact lines. At that time the Supervisor suggested doing a salt shed within 3 years, a town barn within 5 years, a new or renovated town hall in 7 years. We have not spent any money on engineers to help make these decisions. This board is thinking long term. More details need to be discussed next year.

At 8:01 pm the public hearing was closed.

Supervisor Horton now wanted to bring the preliminary budget to be adopted as the final budget. He made a motion as such. Council Member Glenn seconded the motion.

Discussion: Council Member Long stated, “We are, I would offer and amendment.” We need to use some of the enormous fund balance that was predicted weeks ago and was presented by Mr. Purcell and former Supervisor Selmser that there was going to be a significant fund balance. It has been confirmed today that we will have on the order of $976,000.00 of fund balance. The Comptroller says we really should not have more than one or two months of unrestricted fund balance. He though we needed to appropriate more money from the unrestricted fund balance to the budget and reduce the reliance on property tax such that it is brought back into compliance with the NYS Comptroller’s 1.6% tax cap.

Council Member Long suggested instead of pulling out $290,000.00 total. He proposed $487,000.00. And he also wanted to move money over to the DA account.

The Supervisor noted the board wouldn’t discuss the Fire Contract line. This was about the General A account and the Highway DA accounts.

Council Member Long stated that zero be removed out of the DA fund balance, and the entire $487,000.00 out of the A account. This was the best he could hope for tonight.

Council Member Long had a live spread sheet. Supervisor Horton noted that by doing this it would using 58% of the fund balance to lower the tax rate. Council Member Long stated this would be within the State Comptroller’s property tax cap. That is his goal.

The Budget Officer was having difficulty connecting to the internet and could not see the live numbers. According to Council Member Long he came up with a combined total tax rate of $6.067395. It increases the DA tax significantly and reduces the A account slightly. The overall effect is a rate of $6.00 per hundred thousand.

The 10/21 preliminary budget used a reserve of $60,000.00 from the DA account. Today’s numbers were $135,000.00.

More calculations were done by Council Member Long. Supervisor Horton stated Council Member Long wanted to make adjustments to keep the tax rate at the 1.6%. He noted this would go against what Council Member Long voted for on the budget. He did so based on different figures.

Supervisor Horton stated the figures have to be specific

There was no second to this motion made by Council Member Long to use $487,000.00 of fund balance. The motion was defeated.

Council Member Sturgess wanted to pull more money out of the fund balance, but did not want to wipe out 58% of it.

The clerk suggested opening a budget work session. At 8:16 pm the Supervisor opened the budget work session.

The Budget Officer stated we do have a very healthy A account. There is a problem with relying so much on the fund balance to balance the budget is that next year the appropriations don’t go away. Next year you will have to raise taxes in the A account again. More fund balance could be used but the Budget Officer would not put it all into the A account. Eventually that fund balance will run out if you are using it to balance the budget. She noted the 2021 budget was much leaner so there won’t be as much rollover. She supported using some fund balance in the DA account.

Council Member Long agreed. He noted money could always be transferred.

Council Member Sturgess noted so many things were slimmed down. How can we continue to use hundreds of thousands of dollars each year of the fund balance? How will we get the funding to do the things we need to do?

Supervisor Horton wanted to remember where we started from. The theory was the board did not want to run out of money in three years’ time. We have more money than we thought we had but noted in the future we will not have the roll overs we used to have. Council Member Sturgess stated there was 30% of the budget rolled over last year.

Council Member Long stated there has been a consistent amount of rollover. The Supervisor wanted to talk about what was a responsible amount of fund balance the board should be using to make this tax increase as low as possible but still be responsible to the tax payer in the years to come.

Council Member Sturgess stated there is $241,000.00 extra dollars - “found money” from when we started this budget. He proposed taking half of that money in addition to another $140,000.00 out of the A account and then using the other $121,000.00 to fund reserve for the garbage truck, salt, Highway barn and town hall funding. Council Member Long agreed about allocating more money to the reserve accounts for the purposes that are transparent to the public.

Supervisor Horton the board and Budget Officer discussed moving money around.

The Supervisor stated we are throwing money around before we even have a plan. There has not been enough time this year. He noted the board was able to bring in $115,000.00 more in revenue in the A account and spend $352,000.00 less. He agreed we have more money than expected.

It was noted that the highway budget is not sound. Money was spent on equipment and there were expenses. This has to made sound.

The Supervisor noted the board has gone through the process of passing a Local Law to override the tax cap. The comments were well received tonight. The Supervisor heard from the public that they have to manage this money. He did not want to give it back to have the same problems next year.

Council Member Sturgess stated the writing is on the wall for expenses he knows are coming up and the board has not even talked about them.

Supervisor Horton suggested using $50,000.00. He suggested if the sales tax money keeps coming in to dedicate some of the sales tax revenue to the highway.

Council Member Long noted everything is on the record people will know what the board did and what the arguments were. Council Member Long stated the Supervisor is suggesting putting $280,000.00 on the A account. That reduces the proposed tax increase from 22.8% to 17.46%. We don’t know but this is based on having good revenue next year. Council Member Long did not want to increase taxes now because we think someday, we might have to increase taxes later. That is not good logic. Supervisor Horton stated $135,000.00 of fund balance in the DA account is not enough. We need the highway department.

The Supervisor and Budget Officer will be bringing back a five-year budget plan to the town.

Council Member Long suggested moving money tonight from the A account to the DA account to prevent inadequate unrestricted fund balance. If that is done the Supervisor stated all we have done is kick the can down the road for one more year.

The Supervisor noted the contract/agreement is up with the highway department next year. There is one piece of equipment, that new, is $325,000.00 it has broken down five times this year and we’ve put $20,000 in to. Council Member Long thought the budget prepared was not adequate for 2021.

Council Member Sturgess did not want to start putting money away in reserves at 8:30 pm after an hour and a half meeting. We need a plan.

Supervisor Horton in addition to the comments this evening, thanked the numerous people who called or emailed their concerns about the budget and COVID.

Supervisor Horton then amended the budget because we learned we do have the funds available, to put $230,000.00 of fund balance to $280,000.00 that will reduce the tax rate to about $1.04. He wanted to keep the highway the same.

Council Member (Dr.) Glenn leaves the room for a personal reason.

The Budget Officer makes a new cover page.

Supervisor Horton stated General less fund balance & appropriated reserves changes to $279,378.00. That gives a tax rate of $1.04 per thousand that is up four cents per thousand. The highway has $60,000.00 in fund balance. This takes the total tax rate from $5.96 in 2020 to $7.02 in 2021. Council Member Long stated if we are doing six figures it’s $7.016559. That is a 17.530% increase.

Council Member Sturgess seconded the motion.

Council Member Glenn returned.

The clerk was asked to do a roll call vote.

Adopted by a roll call vote as follows:

Supervisor Scott Horton - Yes

Council Member John Glenn - Yes

Council Member James Long - Nay

Council Member Richard Sturgess - Yes

Council Member Donald Travis – Yes

Supervisor Horton had one quick order of business. Every meeting where there has been with a combination of phone or video there have been controversy. He stated the town of Caroga is the only entity in Fulton County still doing virtual. He stated there is virtually zero COVID risk. Council Member Long has been accommodated. He is concerned about his health. Supervisor Horton stated there is not one legislator or board member or elected official that he knows of other than Council Member Long that won’t attend the meetings with COVID protections as we are tonight. The county has been doing it for three months. It is time for Caroga to get back to it.

Council Member Travis noted there were 6 more chairs available for people tonight. The gymnasium can be used again.

The Supervisor noted like there should only be one budget the board is working off of. We should have one set of minutes, one recording of the meeting. “We have got to get back to control. “The Supervisor stated the people are being confused by…

Council Member Glenn finished - conspiring, people conspiring on ZOOM.

Council Member Long heard the Supervisor wishes to discontinue ZOOM and all the people who are attending now, who may not be willing to attend to put themselves at risk and may not even be geographically able to because they are seasonal, and we did not want to discriminate against these people. Most importantly he believed there was an obligation to the public to make sure they can attend and participate in public speaking at the beginning of monthly meetings. “If you say that you want me there, I assume that you mean that you also still want to have ZOOM meetings for all the other people.”

Supervisor Horton replied, “I do not.” “I do not want to have a ZOOM meeting anymore.” He noted the County has a health director and she has approved those measures. He stated people can send the board and the clerk correspondence. It is listed on the agenda. “But it is time that we not have the kinds of discourse that we are having with are you virtual, are you ZOOM, are you here?”

Council Member Sturgess suggested talking about this on Wednesday.

Council Member Long thought it was one of the best things that could be said about Supervisor Horton’s management as supervisor because he runs these meetings. Council Member Long noted these meeting have been made accessible to a very wide audience. Council Member Long stated everyone was clapping (virtually) right now.

Before this year there was no ZOOM Council Member Travis stated.

Council Member Sturgess made Motion to table this until Tuesday. Council Member Sturgess withdrew his motion.

Supervisor Horton then restated the motion to go back starting Tuesday November 10 at 7 pm to in person meetings. The meetings will either be in the meeting room or the gymnasium at 1840 State Highway 10. The motion was seconded by Council Member Glenn.

Council Member Long stated there are a large number of people right now on ZOOM putting thumbs down and shaking their heads very upset with his decision.

The clerk was asked to do a roll call.

Adopted by a roll call vote as follows:

Council Member John Glenn - Yes

Council Member James Long – NO this is contrary to Dr. Fauci’s recommendations.

Council Member Richard Sturgess - Yes

Council Member Donald Travis – Yes

Supervisor Scott Horton – Yes

Supervisor Horton stated to Council Member Long that he has to represent the interests of the board.

Council Member Glenn said games over James.

At 8 47 Council Member Glenn made a motion to adjourn. The motion was seconded by Supervisor Horton.

Submitted,

Linda Gilbert, RMC, CMC

Town Clerk

Copyright © James McMartin Long 2017–2021