Official on budget shortfall: 'I don't know...'
TYRONE--Tyrone Highway Superintendent Paul Ernhout questioned what had happened to $73,000 in his budget that was carried over from the previous year, during the Tuesday, Oct. 14, town meeting.
Ernhout reported on his finances as well as changes made by the board to overtime and the actual number of highway employees. At the meeting he said, "It's my understanding that when you people passed this budget last year I had $819,000, plus a $73,000 surplus balance. It's my understanding that it isn't there. I don't know where it is. It's not from the highway department's overspending that's for sure."
"It was a misunderstanding of the money that was supposed to be appropriated. What (Ernhout) was told from the previous supervisor," said board member Chris Bason about the $73,000. Bason explained as he understood it, the previous Supervisor Gary Jackson told the highway department they would receive a certain amount from the previous year, but the amount was actually less. However, Bason added the highway department had already spent the expected amount. Jackson ended his term early in December of 2014.
"It was a big misunderstanding. How do you put people in charge of money and have them make these mistakes?" said Bason. He added he and two other officials only joined the board this year. Bason was elected to an open seat and Jean Kosty was appointed to the role of supervisor, both starting January of 2013. Don Desrochers was appointed in April to fill another empty seat. When asked about the surplus funds after the Oct. 14 meeting, Kosty said, "If Paul said it, you'll have to ask him." Ernhout did not return calls by press time. When contacted, Desrochers hung up the phone.
Resident Henry Thomas, who attended the Oct. 14 meeting, said, "The difficulty is they don't know how to budget. They have absolutely no idea what they're doing. They don't observe any rules of budgeting."
At the September meeting, Kosty did say the highway department's balance carried over from 2013 to 2014 should have been $18,000 and not $73,000. She explained the highway department's lack of funds resulted from money not being correctly calculated in previous years.
Kosty explained the town loaned the highway department $39,500 in 2013. While it was paid back that same year, Kosty said the reduced funds were not correctly carried over to 2014. When asked how the highway department went over budget in September, Kosty said "I don't know. I wasn't here last year. The mistake is in what they appropriated."
Also at the September meeting, the town loaned $45,000 to the highway department to cover a budget gap because the town hadn't received state funds and county sales tax at the time. In addition, the town shifted $100,000 around within the highway budget to cover overspending.
The board amended a September decision to restrict overtime by the highway department following Ernhout's report. On Oct. 14, the Tyrone town board voted to now allow the highway department to operate in overtime for emergencies. During the recent meeting, Ernhout asked the board to change its decision.
Ernhout said, "I'd like to talk about this overtime that has been taken away from the highway department. What it's going to do is jeopardize all of you in here. There's no way four of us will be able take care of the highway." He talked about how he now has two fewer employees. Kosty explained the town laid off two highway workers following a special meeting Sept. 23.
The board agreed to allow for overtime hours in emergency cases. The board also decided Ernhout would be the one to decide what constituted an emergency situation.
In other business:
• The Tyrone board approved exceeding the state mandated two percent tax levy cap for the 2015 budget.
• A budget workshop was scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 30, at 10 a.m.
The next regular Tyrone town board meeting is set for Tuesday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m.