The Johnsburg town budget, now preliminary with a 1.98 percent levy increase, got a few new ideas from Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed, and more criticism from Councilman Gene Arsenault.
Arsenault’s proposal to move funds from Johnsburg’s highway department for other spending has received its own criticism from Goodspeed and Highway Superintendent Dan Hitchcock.
Though critical, discussion is exactly the point, said Arsenault. While times are tough in New York state, Johnsburg has new opportunities with promotion for and ridership on the new train service and accelerating development at the FrontStreet resort, Arsenault said.
Business community members are working hard to incorporate activity at the town’s attractions in their promotions, and the town should be part of that, said Arsenault.
How the town gets involved or where the money comes from is still open for discussion, he said.
“It wasn’t my intent to say here’s the proposal, take it or leave it,” said Arsenault.
There are options, but they need to be explored and discussed, said Arsenault. The town budget is an economic road map for the coming year, and if there isn’t a line in the budget for an initiative or project, there’s not much use talking about it with no resources fueling the discussion, said Arsenault. The budget should reflect that economic development is a priority for the town.
As you move some of these monies around, it does involve risk. To make sure the citizens of Johnsburg are on board with risky or boilerplate budget decisions, Arsenault would like to see the town adopt Vermont-style town meetings. Future budget talks could start in late spring or early summer to seek more input and discuss priorities before it’s crunch time.
He and other town board members are pursuing the option to break the tax cap, an initiative Goodspeed opposed in a town board vote. Arsenault and fellow Councilman Ron Vanselow say they’re not in favor of breaking the tax cap, but they want to ensure the option is there if they need it.