Budget Workshop In March?
New Grafton Board Aims To Be Pro-Active
By Doug La Rocque
One plank of Grafton Town Supervisor Ingrid Gundrum’s campaign platform last fall was to promote a better understanding for all Town Board members of the annual budget. Her idea is that she and the Board should not simply formulate a spending plan in the fall, but also keep a close eye on spending and budgeting throughout the year so that the Board can anticipate trouble coming and make adjustments, and understand the budgetary implications of the decisions they make throughout the year. [private]To that end, the Board held a special workshop meeting last Thursday, with the Town Clerk Kathy Mason-Wagar, Highway Superintendent Herb Hasbrouck and the Town’s Bookkeeper Maureen Seel. Seel spent the better part of the evening explaining the different sections of the budget, how to read the monthly budget report and understand what budget lines might be in danger of being overspent, and to recognize lines where savings might be available. She also spent a fair amount of time explaining the voucher process and how certain revenues, such as the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs) monies need to be earmarked for certain expenditures.
The four Board members present (Michael Crandall was absent) engaged Seel with questions and put forth some of their own ideas for improving the accounting process. A major concern of Councilman Eric Buckley was tracking monies donated to the Town for a specific purpose. Seel said past practice was to enter such donations as revenue in the General Fund, and the funds were informally overseen to make sure they were spent for the intended purpose. There currently exists however, no line in the budget to specifically track donations and associated expenditures. Board members asked Seel if she could create such a line. She assured them it already exists in the budget software, and they simply have to approve its implementation.
Councilman Buckley also expressed his concern about the age of the Highway Department equipment. He said, “I would like the Town to start to put together a replacement program where new vehicles with extended warranties are purchased on a regular basis.” Buckley said he feels this would greatly reduce the annual expenditures on repairs and free up more hours for department personnel to work on the roads rather than the vehicles.
It was the general perception of all the Board members present, that the workshop was a positive and productive step, especially for the newest members. Supervisor Gundrum said she thought the forum was well received and very educational. On a more personal basis, Councilman Buckley said he has always been involved with other forms of budgeting, and learning more about the municipal budget process was very helpful. He feels strongly that “better planning is needed now to overcome future shortcomings in the town.” The Board agreed they would like to hold another such workshop.
As previously reported here, the NYS Comptroller’s Office is returning an auditor to the Town to review the voucher process, first looked at three years ago. The review is expected to start in the next couple of weeks. Councilwoman Lisa Dooley, who is employed in the financial auditing field, has agreed to sit in with the auditor and report back to the Board about his findings and recommendations.[/private]