CORRECTION, UPDATED 9/28/17 3:03 p.m. — The original article below incorrectly stated “town officials put sales tax in two different spots” and it should have said “real property tax”. We regret the error.
MILTON – Councilman Scott Ostrander, who is running for town supervisor, on Tuesday estimated the accumulated budget gap from the past three years at $1.2 million.
Ostrander, who was appointed to the Town Board on March 1 this year, won the Republican primary for supervisor on Sept. 12 over Councilwoman Barbara Kerr, making him the heavy favorite to be elected in November.
Interviewed by the Journal after Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, Ostrander said his understanding is that “clerical errors” by town officials “put real property tax in two different spots,” resulting in the town inaccurately overreporting its revenues over the past three years.
Supervisor Dan Lewza, also interviewed after the meeting, acknowledged that errors had been made resulting in a budget gap, but declined to comment on the specifics or Ostrander’s figures. The supervisor, who did not seek re-election and supported Ostrander in the primary, said at the beginning of the meeting that the board would address the issue as part of its deliberations considering a new tentative budget, on Oct. 4. The board also set a budget workshop for Oct. 10.
The ongoing budget problems surfaced in June, since when promised deadlines for completion of an audit and a public explanation have been missed. Lewza said the audit was recently completed, but the town’s budget committee, on which he serves, is considering the matter, and “we’re not going to rush this.”
In other business, the board voted unanimously to set an Oct. 18 public hearing “to purchase” the former Camp Boyhaven for $500,000. The plan, as described by Planning Board Chairman Larry Woolbright, is for there to be little or no actual cost to the town. An anonymous donor is contributing $500,000 to match the town’s money, for a total $1 million offer that has been accepted by the Boy Scouts of America.
Under the town plan, the state would purchase most of the 300-acre property from the town to expand the adjacent Middle Grove State Forest, bringing that land back onto the tax rolls for the first time since the 1920s. A Sept. 11 letter to Lewza from Kathleen Moser, a deputy commissioner at the state Department of Environmental Conservation, commits the DEC to working with the town to implement the plan.
The board heard new presentations on the controversial proposed senior housing development on Hutchins Road. While neighbors continued to express opposition, the developers proposed an increased public benefit, providing public water to residents of Red Oak Lane and White Oak Path on the west side of Rowland Street, where well water quality has been poor.
While Kerr has opposed the proposed Hutchins Road project, which would require a zoning change, most board members have not taken a position. They will vote on it next month, Lewza said.
John Frolish, a Republican Town Board candidate, said after the meeting that he would like to see a compromise settle the issue.
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