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OP-ED: Former Town of Alma Bookkeeper voices concerns over town budget

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“Where did all of this money come from?”

By Michelle Dunbar,

When I watched the Town of Alma Budget Work session on 10/18/2023 on the “Alma Facts” Facebook, I did not like what I saw and heard.

The Budget for 2024 presented by Town Supervisor Steve Dickerson and his Financial Advisor was presented as a 3.3% tax increase.  The 2023 Budget approved by the Board was a 2.7% tax increase.  That would be a tax increase of 6% in 2 years since he has taken office.  Why????

I sent an email to the Town Clerk under the “Freedom of Information Act” or FOIA requesting a copy of the Tentative Budget presented to the Board on 10/18/2023 and Year to Date Financial Statements.

On 10/28/2023, the Town Clerk emailed me back and said she had 11 days to get the information I requested together, but she would try to get it together that day.

I emailed her back again and told her that under NYS Municipal Law a copy of the Tentative Budget for the Town of Alma was supposed to be readily available to any Tax Payer in the Town that requested it. I shouldn’t have to wait 11 days to receive it and request it under FOIA.

I didn’t hear back from her. I drove to the Town of Alma town hall to request a copy.  I was given a Tentative Budget dated 09/12/2023.  The budget that I received was not the one presented to the Town Board on 10/18/2023.  It does not reflect a 3.3% tax increase.  I went back to the Town Hall and again requested a copy of the 2024 Tentative Budget that was presented to the Town Board from Steve Dickerson and his Financial Advisor.  The Town Supervisor told me that he didn’t have a copy of the Tentative Budget presented to the Board to give to me.  The Town Supervisor violated NYS Municipal law twice on the morning of 10/28/2023, by not giving me a copy of the Budget I requested.

I have attached a copy of the Tentative Town of Alma budget that I received.  A proper TRANSPARENT Preliminary budget should show Year to Date Expenses, Revenues, and have a percentage increase/decrease beside each line item.

NYS Municipal states that “Excess Fund Balances” (Cash Balances) should be appropriated to offset tax levy increases.

On page 5 of 7 this budget shows an Estimated Unreserved Available Fund Balance for the Highway Fund of $953,742.00.  Where did all of this money come from? If it is indeed what the Available Fund Balance will be at the end of 2023, WHY is the Board not issuing all the Town of Alma tax payers a refund check and a presenting a 0% tax levy.  According to NYS Municipal Law, when you have 2.25 times your tax levy in your Fund Balance it is considered “Excess Fund Balance”.  

On page 3 of 7 the General Fund shows an Estimated Unreserved Available Fund Balance of $214,190.00.  The 2023 tax levy was $220,071.00. Assuming these numbers are thru 08/31/2023, they have only used $5,881.00 of the 2023 tax levy and they are 2/3 of the way thru the year.  Why aren’t they presenting a tax decrease????

I was told by Steve Dickerson, and I quote “ I am not appointing you as the Bookkeeper for the Town of Alma, I can get FOX Financial to due everything that you do for less money than what we pay you.  And you don’t get along with anybody coming on the Board anyways”.  I finished the last payroll and resigned.

I was paid, $8,784.00 the last year that I was the Bookkeeper for the Town of Alma.  According to the Budget that I received on line A1315.4 $10,000.00 and line A1680.4 $2,400.00, a Total of $12.400.00, is what it now costs the Tax Payers for what I did for the Town of Alma.  That is $3,616.00 per year more than I was paid or a 41% increase in cost to the Town of Alma Tax Payers.

The Town of Alma terminated FOX Financial as their Bookkeeper at the November 1, 2022 and appointed Baldwin’s from Nunda, NY.

The Town of Alma is now using MACE for their Code Enforcement.  It is my understanding that they charge $8.00 per parcel, keep all of the Building Permit Money, and set the Fee Schedule.  They are now appropriating $9,378.00 on their 2024 Tentative budget. The 2023 budget was $3,120.00, that is over a 300% increase.

I believe that the only way to resolve the issues that continue to plaque the Town of Alma, is to dissolve the Town.

It makes me very sad to see what is happening in the Town I have lived in my whole life. The Tax Payers in this Town need to pay attention to what is really happening, not only here in the small Town of Alma, but in all forms of Government. Complacency is a very dangerous thing in the world we now live in. 

Please attend the next Budget Workshop, which is scheduled for the Day after Election Day, November 8, 2023 and voice your opinions.  They need to be heard!

Thank you

Michelle L Dunbar

Concerned Town of Alma Resident and Tax Payer


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