Residents Call It “Sham”
By Eugenia Moskowitz
The Village of Washingtonville’s final 2017 budget presentation saw 150 residents pack village hall on Jan. 30 as Mayor David Heintz and trustee Joe Galante announced they brought the tax increase down to 1.5 percent. But residents called the budget “a sham” and the numbers presented as “fake.”
After a contentious Jan. 25 meeting, Galante had given the budget to trustee Joe Bucco and said, “I’m done.” On Jan. 27, a group of 10 professional certified public accountants, all volunteers from the village, joined Bucco from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. to try to make sense of the budget, which had gone from a possible 12 percent to a revised 5.7 percent increase, but many line items were deeply flawed, according to the CPAs. They concluded that the budget appeared to be made of “artificial numbers.”
Bucco said he was not surprised at their conclusion, describing it as “the same fake budget the board has been passing each year.”
Resident and trustee candidate Rich Calore, a property manager, said: “It’s a mess. The CPA ladies need to see all the old reconciliations to figure out where the money has been going. They tried to do it on Excel spreadsheet to find out exactly what we’re dealing with and how to see numbers that reflect reality, but that’s going to take a lot more time.”
CPAs Amy Chaing and Margaret Griffin asked specific financial questions, which Heintz and Galante did not effectively answer. Heintz insisted a municipal budget was different from a private budget, but residents applauded Chaing when she argued that numbers were numbers, and that the budget pointed to deep inconsistencies, missing sums and major question marks. Other residents pointed to gaps in the village’s reserve funds. The CPAs crunched numbers and concluded that the real tax increase is actually 7.2 percent, not the 1.5 percent Heintz and Galante presented.
Kevin Radday, owner of Betty’s Country Kitchen, suggested that the incoming administration have a professional accountant oversee the yearly budgets. Trustee Tom DeVinko agreed, saying, “There’s a lot of talent in our village and we really do need an accountant-type comptroller, municipal or private, or else a group of citizens assisting the board as a volunteer task-force.”
To read the full article see the Feb., 3 editions of The Sentinel and Orange County Post.