During the New Paltz Town Board meeting on Oct. 18, New Paltz Town Supervisor Neil Bettez initially communicated that the only way for the town budget to stay within the two percent tax cap for 2019 is to start implementing layoffs.
Initially, local officials worried that layoffs were necessary for the town’s budget to avoid exceeding the two percent tax cap. Overstepping the budget could put New Paltz residents’ property tax rebate in peril.
The town budget is made up from the amount of money the town spends subtracted from revenue. Money that was not spent from the previous year, the fund balance and taxes add to town coffers. The budget is determined in three steps: the tentative budget, which was presented by Bettez, the preliminary budget, determined by the town board and is finally voted on to become the final budget.
The budget has impacted all departments equally, meaning that each of their budgets were cut and bigger departments had small increases of two percent. The two percent increase included expenses such as salary and healthcare. The smaller departments noticed a seven percent increases because they “absorbed” more healthcare costs.
The 2019 tentative budget, which Bettez describes as a “first draft,” showed an expense amount of $11,872,921, which is greater than the 2018 total tentative budget expenses of $10,718,890.
The tentative budget for 2019 shows $9,898,272 of the total expenses will be raised by taxes. According to Bettez, the reason for the “huge” potential tax increase is because, unlike previous years, he did not make decisions regarding budget cuts. Instead he left those decisions up to the town board when they had to create the preliminary budget.
News of the 2019 tentative budget have New Paltz residents concerned with the rising price of living in the town, due to tax increases.
“The cost of living in New Paltz has dramatically risen,” said John Cohen, New Paltz resident. “Continually, it’s going to go up.”
Cohen felt that New Paltz town representatives should do what is needed in order to manage the budget appropriately and assure residents that the cost of living will not drastically increase.
On Thursday, Nov. 1, the town board held a meeting at 7 p.m. regarding the preliminary budget and found a way to avoid the layoffs.
The town board was successfully able to cut the initial 18 to19 percent budget increase to a 5.9 percent increase. Bettez claims that it is actually a four percent increase in spending over last year’s budget.
“The big thing is most of that four percent increase is fixed costs like healthcare,” Bettez said. “More than half of it is healthcare costs, retirement costs, dental, vision, things we don’t have a lot of control over and we just kind of have to deal with.”
The town of New Paltz is currently applying for a $3 million grant from the National Highway Association to build an improved bike path on Henry W. Dubois Dr., in which the town would be responsible for 20 percent of the cost. Bettez said that this 20 percent has already been factored into the budget for 2019, and if the town does not receive the grant, then the 20 percent will be used to offset any tax increase for the following year.