The Telegram
  • Frankfort Town Council hears comments on budget

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  • The preliminary 2014 budget for the town of Frankfort includes debt service for new town highway equipment and a resident questioned those purchases during Thursday’s budget hearing at the town hall.
    The town borrowed $675,000 to purchase three plows and a John Deere loader.
    Jeff Langerlaan, of Libritz Drive, wanted to know why the town had purchased 10-wheel instead of six-wheel plow trucks.
    “We use them summer and winter,” said town Highway Superintendent Ron Testa. In the winter, they are used for plowing and sanding roads and in the summer highway crews use them to haul sand and trash, he said.
    “We’re saving time on plowing because they hold more material,” said Testa. “It takes a lot of time if you have to go back and load up.”
    Langerlaan said the town had run smaller trucks when he worked for the highway department. “That’s a lot of added expense on the price of equipment,” he added. He also questioned how well the trucks are being maintained. “Do you wash them,” he asked.
    Testa said the vehicles are well maintained and are washed, but added, “The salt eats them up.” He expects the town to use the trucks for seven or eight years.
    “You should get way more than seven or eight years when they cost that much money,” said Langerlaan.
    “I want to trade them in while we can get a good buck for them,” said Testa. “If we wait until they’re 15 years old, we get nothing.”
    Councilman Mike Testa suggested Langerlaan go to the town garage and check it out to see how the trucks are being maintained.
    “They’ve done a nice job up there,” said Councilman Joseph Tamburro.
    Town Supervisor Joseph Kinney said while he is not in agreement about turning the vehicles over that quickly, the town plans to try out the plan and monitor it. He said the facility and equipment are in better shape than they were in the past and are being well maintained.
    “This is our plan now and we’ll see how it works,” said Kinney. “It is a big investment — $250,000 apiece.” He added the highway superintendent’s job is “to keep the equipment in fine operating condition and I know he’ll continue to do so.”
    The council took no action on the $3.3 million budget after Thursday’s hearing. Kinney said the council plans to meet two or three more times to discuss the budget and will finalize and adopt it by the Nov. 20 deadline. At this point, the board is anticipating a tax increase of a little more than three percent and would have to conduct a public hearing and pass a local law to increase taxes by more than the state tax limit. In fact, Kinney said, the cap will be even tighter for 2014. The limit is the lesser of two percent or the consumer price index. The consumer price index is 1.66 percent.
    Page 2 of 2 - The tax levy under the current plan is $1,503,000, up $53,000 from the tax levy for 2013.
    “We hope to maintain this tax levy,” said Kinney.
    It would mean a tax rate increase of 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed value or $20 a year for the average homeowner with property assessed at $80,000, he said.
    Kinney said the budget maintains current manpower levels and all services. Debt service is up by some $190,000 due to both the highway equipment and the $2.2 million bond for the new town office building. Medical insurance costs are up and retirement costs will rise by some $20,000 over the current year.
    To keep taxes as low as possible, the plan calls for the use of $145,000 from the town fund balance and the revision of the equipment bonds from five-year to 10-year bonds.
    Factors impacting the budget include a slight reduction in the town’s assessment base due to a reduction in the taxable assessment rolls and stagnant construction and development, according to Kinney.
    Prior to the hearing on the budget, the council conducted a hearing on the town’s contract with the Frankfort Center Fire Department for Fire Protection Districts 1 and 5. The proposal calls for payment of $114,955 to the department for 2014, $117,255 for 2015, $119,600 for 2016, $121,990 for 2017 and $124,430 for 2018 by March 30 of each year, plus workers compensation and other costs. The agreement will continue during that period unless either party serves notice in writing on or before Aug. 20 any year it chooses to terminate or modify the agreement for the succeeding year.
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