Johnsburg announces 2009 budget decrease

NORTH CREEK In this period of economic volatility and the threat of government cuts to essential services the town of Johnsburg set itself apart this week by announcing an overall decrease in the proposed 2009 town budget. The tentative budget calls for a .08 percent reduction in town taxes as compared to the 2008 adopted budget. This budget marks an important change in the way we look at government, Johnsburg Supervisor, and Budget Officer, Sterling Goodspeed said. We really had to think outside the box. Town officials and concerned citizens began to look at the budget in late November of 2007, following Goodspeeds election to the supervisor position. What they found were numerous areas where minor changes could yield considerable savings to the town, and they set to work by establishing a citizens budget advisory group. The group looked at potential ways to consolidate services and change the way the town government traditionally operated. Goodspeed also began to hold unofficial budget meetings each week with Candace Lomax and Don Greene - after hours in the quiet of the town library. The budget proposal we have on the table is the product of intense effort over the last few months, Goodspeed said. We literally turned it inside-out and went through it line by line and asked ourselves what items paid for themselves and what items did not. I think we struck a balance in that it supports my belief that government should be as small as possible without sacrificing essential services. Officials also moved to create accountability in the 2009 budget by implementing a series of monitoring steps. Each step is designed to evaluate what items are within budget, and out of budget, before they become significant problems. We put a lot of effort into this budget, Goodspeed said as he tapped firmly on the 2009 budget narrative. On occasions where we see a problem within a certain budget code we try to develop it into an opportunity. With that thought in mind, Goodspeed referred to this years move to outsource the management of the towns water district while maintaining a key employee relationship, and saving the town an expected $10,000-15,000 per year in expenditures. This year the town also moved ahead with its hot and cold town board meeting legal services and the initiative to force potential major property developers to pay for essential services. The two efforts have saved the town an estimated $25,000 in real savings this year. While considering himself to be fiscally conservative, Goodspeed also admitted that at times, it takes an impartial set of eyes to see things for what they are. As an example, he pointed to the recent effort to mitigate the overhead expense of Tannery Pond by implementing a modest usage fee system. Its definitely a step in the right direction, he said in reference to the $15,000 in anticipated annual usage fees. I was focused on the big picture but other people were not and I quickly realized that something was better than nothing. While many communities and municipalities are faced with limiting or cutting essential services to keep their budgets in check this year, Johnsburgs budget is unique due to a level of flexibility that has been incorporated. I am proud of this budget, Goodspeed said. The budget is the hub of the town from which all the spokes radiate outward. We were even able to help the Depot Museum, and the North Country Outreach Center. We forced every code to justify itself and the end result is a budget that is leaner, but also more flexible and better able to handle contingencies as they arise. I will do my darndest to reduce it again next year, Goodspeed said. As a final measure of savings, the 2009 Johnsburg budget also includes a modest 3 percent pay decrease for the supervisor and no increase for town council members. In these times I think we all need to look at tightening our belts a little, Goodspeed concludes. A town budget meeting will be held on Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m., in the Wevertown Community Center, prior to the start of the regular town board meeting.

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