Ravena Resident and Taxpayer, Mr Laszlo Polyak, Continues His Analysis of Past and Current Village of Ravena Budgets. Here’s What He Has To Say in Continuing Part I, Common Cents:
Common “Cents” Part II:
“Figures don’t lie, but liars sure can figure!” (Mark Twain)
In Part One I didn’t mention any names or the RCS CSD (as the RCS school budget controversy came around and continues to waste money but that’s a novel in itself). I had only one issue: “bullying” and I stayed with the bullying issue.
The editing of Part I by Smalbany blog staff is a part of life. I stay with numbers not personalities. I’m not sure what “wingnuts” means, I don’t do “drumstick bolts”, “dirty-feet cops “, dumb-dumb police chiefs, poop-poop police, or towel-painted-blond–fitness-tubby, etc. True, the pictures do help with the boring bean counting budget reading. I also didn’t state the village court must go. I would have to look at many facts and factors then say it’s got to go.
In Part II, however, I will mention names as they relate to the budget and which are of public record, so you can address, seek or ask your own questions of department heads or the individuals themselves, and you can draw your own conclusions. Actually, only two sitting members of the Ravena Village counsel are actually responsible for the 2014–15 budget, Nancy Warner and Bill Bailey, but their political lives are nearing an end, too. As in that cop TV show, Dragnet, Sergeant Joe Friday wants just the financial facts ma’am! The financial facts! Dull and dry but color may or not be, but usually is, added by the Smalbany editors.
Some commenter’s and the editors have asked for a comparison between the village of Ravena, town of Coeymans and / or New Baltimore. It’s like comparing apples to oranges; it’s not easy to do because there are different mandates that apply to towns and villages; towns have far more responsibilities than villages do, so most bookkeepers/CPA/auditors whether local, state or federal will tell you that you really can’t compare them. Maybe you could compare office by office, or you might compare building departments or the clerk’s offices, such as a comparison of the town of Coeymans clerk’s office vs the Village of Ravena clerk’s office. However when 1500 folks move out, we do need to consolidate services. Plenty of little Indian chiefs but not enough Indians in our town (A grand total of 7300 folks combined in town of Coeymans, including the Village of Ravena!) The town clerk is elected but the village clerk is appointed. The town clerk has ten times more work than the village clerk. The town clerk is responsible for added mandates such as marriage, hunting, fishing, dog, licenses, recording deaths, overseeing cemeteries, collecting taxes and fees from all other departments (except for the court fees /fines), sending out tax, water, sewer bills, recording town, zoning, planning, special and regular meetings, public notices, F.O.I.L. requests, certificates of residences, stamp into the record notices of claims and letters to other departments even copies of the budgets and all history requests, etc.
The town clerk also oversees elections every year and certifies election results for registered voters. And the town clerk is the registrar of vital statistics and does the town banking, too. Let’s not forget she handing out free Arby meal cards, too, when Coeymans was Reubenville! The town clerk does all of this on a $41,000.00 year salary with staff salaries of $64,000; that’s one full time clerk and 2 part time helpers. Under the New York law, the general municipality law as relates to villages, there are two distinct offices or positions: a village clerk and village treasurer. Under mayor John T. Bruno Ravena bizarrely combined both separate positions into one clerk-treasurer, and then added a deputy clerk-treasurer position. Nancy Warner needed control over everything and her friends needed jobs, too. All other villages have a clerk and a treasurer with clear responsibilities separate from each other, as spelled out in village law.
However, when we the compare the village office to the town, the village clerks’ responsibilities don’t include marriage, hunting, fishing dog licensing or death certificates;-they only record village meeting minutes, they don’t record planning or zoning minutes. The village of Ravena administers to at most 3,000 residents instead of 7,300, which are the responsibility of the Coeymans town clerk; The village clerk also collects village taxes. I think they collect water and sewer rents too? It’s not clear if they collect water/sewer rents. They do F.O.I.L. (New York State Freedom of Information) requests. They issue pool passes.
The Village of Ravena’s Clerk/Treasurer gets $29,500 according to acct # 1325.14 and the Deputy Clerk-Treasurer gets $ 39,955.76. According to acct# 1325.15 (The superior apparently gets paid less than the subordinate so there must be something going on behind the scenes!). The part time Ravena clerk-treasurer is paid $12,360.00. and here’s where it gets really tricky: There is an “outside service” budget line item # 1325.48 showing $9,500.00; is that a “bonus” for an employee or is it another person? There is another budget line item for “payroll contractual expense” acct # 1325.43, it went from zero for the year 2012/2013 to $6000.00 in 2013/2014. Is that “training” or another person, or is it another phantom employee? In acct #1325.47 “conferences” another $2,500.00 what’s that for?
The total spent on the salaries varied from $81,855.76 to $100,000.76 for doing about one third the work of the town of Coeymans clerks. Why is the payroll for the Ravena village clerk more than that of the Coeymans town clerk who does 3 – times the work and does it for more than twice the number of residents?
An auditor’s job can be so dull with so many colorful questions. So you can see it’s hard to compare until you review the actual bills, vouchers, and actual records (if any are kept). Trustee Nancy Biscone – Warner, the former deputy clerk-treasurer for about 25 years is on the committees to over-see the village offices (clerks), the police (Dirty – Hands Jerry Deluca), the fitness center (Cathy Deluca), the central garage and the streets. Perhaps she can answer some of the questions to clear up the salaries and expenses for these offices and accounts.
According to official village paperwork, postage account #1325.41 in 2012/2013 was $3,500; in 2013/2014 it was $3,199.00; in 2013/2014 it was $7,100.00 then $8,000.00 in 2014/2015. Postage more than doubled between 2012 and 2014. But in that period, more folks moved out of the village and town. Why the doubling of the postage? Was someone running the political campaigns from the village of Ravena offices?
Let’s take a real look at one of the departments phone bills, the Ravena Building Department in the budget is known as Public Safety, acct #’s 3620.11 through 3620.49. Its telephone budget is $1,500.00, that could be real after all our village of Ravena is booming….take a stroll down Main Street or 9W. We are building senior housing left and right. The numbers of family homes are going up all over too. Never mind businesses going into the store fronts. Sorry! I was only trying to be funny. Sure, the deterioration of the Bruno – Warner ghost town does requir the building inspector to be at 10 places at once to inspect all this activity of the economic boom in Ravena (hint: sarcasm). With 500 telephone messages to return too! (Only kidding we are the regional ghost town at this time, while Bethlehem assessors refer to the RCS school district as a “failure.”)
Even with the latest population loss of 500 folks in the village it is not easy to see how the phone bill went from $989.52 in 2012 (actual) to $1,500 in 2014-15 (budget).
Now, looking at employee employment I will walk you through this, it may be bizarre but it is their record. First you have budget line item # 3620.11 where the part time clerk goes from $6,960.49 (actual in 2012-13), and then in 2013-14 jumps to $20,000, and then in 2013-14 to $21,600 part time. Look at line item # 3620.12 “assistant building inspector (part time)” Santa $10,300.00 (Yeah! Santa Claus is generous to himself!). Then it really gets weird the Building Inspector budget line item # 3620.13, Joe Burns gets $27,254.16 then in the back pages of the budget you see Joe Burns gets $54,508.32/year, the other (27,254.16 comes from building-Mountain Rd. acct 1623.12 custodians or hourly employee 27,254.16) but when look at that account the budget is 33,990.00 or 30,900.00 are you confused yet? But when you add the 2 accts in “Mountain Rd accts”, together 1623.12 and 1623.15 you get $64,890.00 for the cleaning of the building/maintaince. Our question is this: Is Joe Burns the janitor too?
Now, let’s go back to so – called building inspector budget line item # 3620.15. This is still another hourly employee at $8, 755, for what? What do they do? Filing all those new building permits, blueprints? Then we have motor vehicle that’s $1,000 a year but no gas expense. We see them driving all around the village all day long all the time! They must run on air? Where are the figures for vehicle fuel expenses? The outside service for budget line item # 3620.48, is $ 6,024 .44 (actual) for whom or what is that expense? What’s it for, financial braniacs? Then we have “unclassified expenses”? Are “unclassifieds” really legal? For the year 2012 – 13 we had an expenditure of $78,049.73 (actual). Is that the cost of taking down the building on the corner of Main St and Orchard Ave.? Remember DEC got involved in that fiasco because the oil tank wasn’t removed first, causing an oil spill in the basement all in front of Nancy Warner’s property! Now there’s an example of Warner’s performance as trustee in charge of buildings and streets! And where was the building inspector in all this? Contact the DEC to find out the fine amount for that one, and then you might find the fine amount under one of the many unclassified expenses. Pretty clever move that one! Hiding the fines for incompetence under the “unclassifieds” in the budget. What’s worse still, is that they include the fines for incompetence in proposed budgeting! I never heard of “UN – ” classified expenses. Any bill received by a municipality (Ravena seems to be the exception) goes into a specific account or you create an expense account for it.
Let’s go back to Mountain Rd. where we find an unclassified expense of actual $41,407.93 is that the hidden cost of taking down the building at Main Street and Orchard Ave.? The outside services 2012 – 13 budget line item # 1623.48 for $ 14,735.67 (actual amount), was that to cover up the cost to the removal of the building too? What are they hiding at $18,000 for 2014-15? An expense before there’s a classification for it, like putting the cart before the horse?
The zoning and planning attorney gets $6,300 for the planning board and $6,300 for zoning board each, totaling $12,600.00. To be fair the building department under budget line item # 2555 brings apparently brings revenue into the village of Ravena to the tune of $1,852 in 2012-13 in building permits. Wow! Now we’re talking some real money! Almost $2,000 in revenues. Don’t get too excited. Just do the math.
The Public works administration, village foreman salary for Fritz, who drove around Ravena all day long for over $60,000.00 a year (see budget line item # 1490.11), now it’s Henry’s position so he gets to drive around for $60,000.
Ravena Resident and Taxpayer
It seems the more folks move out of Ravena the more the village hires and pays for overtime but that’s another story. I hope the new mayor demands written competitive proposals for goods and services provided from outside sources to the village, requires justification in advance from his department heads on weekly basis for any overtime, insists on a description and justification for any unclassified expense and then requires them to be classified, and reviews all job descriptions against requirements for village employees. He could start with the Village of Ravena clerk’s office, then move on to the building inspector, and finish up with the Ravena Health and Fitness Center and the Village of Ravena (kangaroo) Court. That should save at least nearly a cool million and how do you think that will affect your tax bill?
Editorial Disclaimer. Mr Polyak’s article was reviewed and edited, at times extensively, not necessarily for content but for style and language considerations. Mr Polyak’s comments and analysis do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this blog. The layout and illustrations are the work of the Smalbany editorial staff.
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