By Holly Crocco
Patterson Town Supervisor Richard Williams recently presented a tentative 2024 town budget that he says is responsible and responsive to taxpayers.
“Even though the tentative budget proposes several large purchases and capital projects, such the new highway trucks and improvements to Veterans’ Park, these improvements have been financially planned for over a number of years,” he said at the Sept. 13 Town Board meeting. “As a result, we have been able to keep the overall increase to the tentative budget to just under a 1 percent increase in spending this year.”
Williams said the town faced a number of challenges in comparing this budget, as inflation is still high, at 3.2 percent, and the consumer price index rose last year to nearly 8 percent in the region. “While 2023 has been better, we are still seeing a significant increase to the cost of our operations,” he said.
The supervisor noted that the largest hurdle in drafting the 2024 budget has to do with a decision made at the county level this year. “The single greatest issue facing the town’s budget involves our EMS service,” he said.
Williams explained that this year, the county approved a contract with a new advanced live support provider that required it to complete ALS billing agreements with volunteer basic life support transporting ambulance services operating in Putnam County. That new ALS provider sought to charge the town a much higher rate, according to the supervisor. While the town negotiated the cost to the town down for the remainder of 2023, the increase will go into effect in 2024.
Therefore, the town is taking matters into its own hands. “Included in this budget is funding to pay to convert our BLS ambulance service to an ALS service, which we believe will be more cost effective than paying the high ALS rate,” said Williams. “What the current ALS provider is requesting… we can do it for a lot less.”
Another challenge in drafting the 2024 budget is that next year is a leap year, so the town has to budget for 26.2 payrolls. “When reviewing the budget, it gives the impression that salaries have been increased higher than they actually have,” said the supervisor.
He explained that while a 1 percent increase for his position and for town board members is included in the proposed budget, most other full-time officials and employees will receive a 2 percent pay increase. Part-timers at the recreation center will see a 3.5 percent pay increase, per the tentative budget, to bring them more in-line with the state’s minimum wage.
The proposed budget includes a new lifeguard manager position in the recreation department. “It is my hope that with this new position we will address the deficit we saw this year in the number of lifeguards,” he said.
Williams said the town is anticipating a significant increase in insurance costs, so the budget includes a 10 percent increase for general insurance and a 19.8 percent increase in the town’s medical insurance rates.
The proposed budget also includes an increase for the highway department, which seeks to purchase two plow trucks at a cost of $400,000, which is part of the town’s vehicle replacement schedule, in addition to a new trailer and pickup truck.
A significant investment is being made in Veterans’ Memorial Park, including funding for playground equipment and updates to existing facilities.
The tentative budget includes an increase for the Putnam Lake Fire District, which is less than what was requested by the department. “I believe we need to meet with the Putnam Lake Fire District to get further clarification on what they are seeking,” said Williams.
Two projects the town has been working on for years – bringing a public water supply to Front Street and construction of a new EMS building – are also funded in the proposed budget. “It is my fervent hope that these projects will move forward to completion in 2024,” said the supervisor.
A public hearing on the budget is scheduled Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. at town hall.