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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, November 13, 2008

Rensselaerville’s budget blunders

By Zach Simeone

RENSSELAERVILLE — After voting on a preliminary budget for 2009 on Nov. 3, and then printing three different versions for the public, the town board will meet tonight for another budget hearing.

“Since the numbers were transcribed to the computers incorrectly, the budgetary figures that came out were much larger than what they had voted on,” said Deputy Supervisor Richard Tollner, “and items that were questionable ended up being left in the budget.”

On Oct. 22, Town Hall printed a version of the budget that said total appropriations for the tentative 2009 budget were up to $2,329,554, an increase of $195,847 from the 2008 budget.

The second budget, printed later the same day, said total appropriations were at $2,351,430, up $217,723 from the 2008 budget.

“I haven’t figured out the exact difference, but we’ve been busy with the election,” Town Clerk Kathy Hallenbeck said last week. “We went to a payroll service, and they don’t break it down per department; they do the general fund as a whole lump sum. So, when our bookkeeper takes it back in-house, things will be much cleaner,” she said.

On Monday, a third version of the budget came out of Town Hall, which held that total appropriations were still $2,351,430, as in the second version, but the total change from 2008 was down to $114, 779 — the correct difference between the tentative 2009 budget, and last year’s, which totaled $2,236,651 in appropriations, according to the third version of next year’s preliminary budget.

These are just some of the many inconsistencies.

According to state requirements, overseen by the comptroller’s office, towns must hold public hearings on their tentative budgets by Nov. 15, and adopt a final spending plan by Nov. 20.

Town residents present at last week’s budget hearing questioned the discrepancies between the first two versions.

Supervisor Jost Nickelsberg, a Republican at the helm of a Democrat-dominated board, said he has no idea how it happened.

Councilman Gary Chase said of the latest version, “This is the one that’s supposed to be perfect, and I see a lot of imperfections already.”

Chase said that, while it is normally the supervisor’s responsibility to put the budget together, the board had to “help him along” this year.

“The supervisor didn’t have all the numbers that we needed to complete the budget,” Chase said. “The numbers were plugged into two different computers, and one was supposed to be checking another. But they were using two different programs, and they came up with different numbers,” he said.

“But,” Chase said, “the supervisor didn’t provide us with the numbers we needed. At that time, we had all the line items done, but not all the unexpended balances. Now that we have them, we’ll have the second budget hearing, and then a meeting again next week, and we’ll go over and see from all his final numbers where we can make cuts and bring the percentages down.”

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