A preliminary budget for 2018 has the Town of New Paltz on its toes with a four percent increase in taxes.
On Oct. 20, the Town released the preliminary budget for 2018, indicating new figures for Town expenditures and revenue.
Overall spending for the Town has decreased by $126,000, or 1.1 percent. This is a result of efforts from every department in the municipality to cut costs, with efforts to retain jobs. The police department, for one, was able to keep budget increases below one percent. While spending has decreased, revenue has also seen a decrease.
“It’s a product of the economy,” said Deputy Town Supervisor Dan Torres. “There are a number of factors. How we boost revenue is by looking at Town programs. There is no magic bullet to fix this.”
One such program would be the Town’s recycling center, which sells mulch and compost to generate revenue for the municipality.
While an increase in revenue and revenue streams would certainly benefit the Town, a solution for lower expenditures would be more immediate. A shift towards a shared municipality with the Village could be the first step.
The idea of a shared municipality is not new for the Town and Village. Some emergency response services, such as the fire department, are already shared by the two entities.
“We don’t operate as competing municipalities,” Torres said. “We’re already moving in the right direction. When we apply for grants we apply as a joint municipality, when we look at new projects we do it as a group.”
With Gov. Cuomo’s Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition and Ulster County Executive Mike Hein’s Shared Services Tax Savings Plan, both municipalities could benefit greatly from sharing their services, even reducing the increased tax rate within the Town.
“Any tax increase has an impact, but town taxes are some of the smallest,” Torres said. “I can’t speak for every family, but as a homeowner it’s obviously not something anyone wants. The Village joining us would be a net benefit not just for Town taxpayers, but for Village taxpayers as well.”
The four percent tax increase is a result of contractual obligations of the Town, according to Town Supervisor Neil Bettez. These obligations include providing health insurance and union-mandated raises for certain positions. Bettez estimates that these costs have increased by $100,000 to $150,000 this year, and increase almost yearly. Typically, excess money in the fund balance from the previous year would be used to offset tax increases. For 2018, however, the fund balance was smaller than previous years.
Money from the tax increase will be used to fund essential services to the municipality, as well as services expected by the community. Some of these services include maintenance and operation of the community center and Moriello Pool.
“It’s an ongoing struggle to provide services and keep taxes low,” said Bettez. “People expect certain services. They want the roads plowed and the town to be safe and that’s what we do.”
A public hearing will be held to discuss the new budget on or before Nov. 9, with a decision being reached and the budget being adopted no later than Nov. 20.