Orange Co. Budget Mtg.

Front Page / Dec. 10, 2009 3:35pm EST

Moved to Afternoon

There were few taxpayers present to scrutinize the preliminary Orange County budget this year. Nor were many present to question the new meeting time, which was a Monday afternoon.

About 10 attendees included the court employees and assistant judges. Sheriff Bohnyak did not attend for health reasons.

When Selectboard Chair Larry Townsend of Randolph asked why the meeting had been moved from the evening, Judge Maurice Brown countered that Rutland and Windsor Counties hold their budget meetings during the day.

Judge Prudence Pease added that both meetings last year were held on nights with inclement weather, causing many people to call the court questioning whether the meetings would still be held. Brown cited a cost savings of not bringing in the employees for a "half day" for the meetings; but when asked what the savings were, he didn’t know. Pease admitted that no taxpayers had actually requested the change in time.

The budget figures did “seem reasonable,” remarked Townsend, showing a 4% increase from last year’s bottom line; total expenditures are budgeted to increase from $728,290 to $758,938 in 2010-11. The actual figure for 2009-10 expenditures was $614,488.

Townsend brought to the judges’ attention that the balance sheet lists $172,924 as the amount being held in the reserve fund and commented that the 12-13% carryover seems high.

Pease remarked that the number should be $64,000 and that she would ask the auditors to explain the discrepancy; Tullar remarked that the state auditor’s office recommends 5-10% and therefore $64,000 is just about right. Pease explained that they cannot have more than 10% of the annual budget in the account.

The total operating budget for the courthouse is down from $339,180 to $320,165, amounting to a decrease of over $19,000 in expenses, Pease explained.

One major decreased line item is building renovations, which have decreased from $57,500 to $30,000 because of completed projects such as exterior painting and the attic insulation. Revenue was adjusted down for next year, based on decreased passport sales.

Pease explained that audit costs went over budget, and went on to explain that, as per recommendations of the state auditor’s office, they are now auditing every year and that this was the last year of catching up. Despite the widely publicized 3% paycuts for state staff, the side judges have awarded raises for themselves and the other county employees of 1.8%.

“We have put in a cost of living increase at the same rate as the state did last July,” explained Pease.

Andrew Tullar of Thetford asked, “How does each town’s rate get figured?”

“We get those figures from the state (the tax base), in January,” Pease said.

Increased Costs Ahead

In a budget narrative release with the preliminary budget draft, the side judges stated, “Legal fees have increased significantly. We have been through tremendous changes in Orange County during the past year—which include but are not limited to the creation of an employee policy and procedure manual and job descriptions for all county staff.

“We have addressed all of the recommendations from the State Auditors along with some other additional legal issues. All of these require legal advice but hopefully these issues are behind us and next year our costs will be less.”

Staffing continues to be in flux, as the narrative states, “We have one full-time Facilities Coordinator who is currently providing custodial services in addition to his regular duties. We plan to hire additional staff for the custodial position.”

His regular duties, without custodial, will earn him about $29,000 next year. The budget, too, shows inconsistent numbers, with $9500 budgeted for the treasurer this year and last, but over $22,000 actually spent.


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