The Tuxedo Town Council recently voted to adopt its 2016 budget. The good news is that the town’s administration has finally gotten to the heart of the money matters — a combination of an apparently incompetent auditor that helped produce a conga line of uninformed fiscal decisions by the municipality over time.
The bad news is that the average Tuxedo homeowner will see a property tax increase in 2016 of between $365 to $389.
There will not be any Genting gifts to bail the Town out this year.
Only serendipity and private donations negotiated by our officials from potential developers have allowed the Town to remain intact financially since 2013. We can pin our hopes to increased property tax and other private source revenues from planned developments, but as I learned in the Army and now as a financial planner, “hope is not a plan.”
— Town of Tuxedo Budget Officer William Sweet
The $8.468 million dollar town budget is 14% less than in 2015, or $1.384 million from the year before. The Tuxedo Police Department and public safety will take a sizable budget haircut of near $700,000 or 36%.
Keeping to his campaign promise to communicate the nuts and bolts of Town government to residents, Rost c0-wrote, with a heaping helping from Town Budget Officer Bill Sweet, a rather detailed state-of-the-town fiscal letter entitled: Fiscal Situation: November 2015 that stated Tuxedo currently faces a near $2 million budget gap for fiscal 2016.
Rost and Sweet focused attention on the very real fund gap between revenues and expenses, a situation that appeared to be structural and rooted in past budgeting practices:
The difficulties that we face as a municipality are the compounded effects of several years of inattention and of deferred decisions (can-kicking). The damage was not done all in a single year, and it simply will not be fixed in a single year.
The Town will benefit from having Sweet onboard as Town Budget Officer — Sweet is a known and trusted financial professional who has a reputation for no-nonsense book keeping as well as community service.
The good news, according to the letter, is that all the town’s financial skeletons, so to speak, have been cleaned out of the closet. In a situation where one errant fiscal statement can compound real budget problems over the course of time, Rost indicated that his budget team untangled a whole series of inept auditing practices going back nine budgets.
The implication is that the Tuxedo town government made past budget decisions on faulty fiscal information.
The assessment of Tuxedo’s fiscal health is sobering. Even with cuts, the bottom line for a municipality facing a budget gap is to raise taxes or cut services — neither of which is appealing to residents.
This is not the time for anger or finger-pointing. Now is the time to set aside political and personal differences and unite toward a common goal of a stable and efficient Town government focused on providing quality services for its citizens.