The Village Board of Trustees in the Village of New Paltz held a public hearing on March 22 regarding the tentative budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. The proposed budget includes pay raises for the mayor, deputy mayor and trustees included within the 0% change proposed for the eighth budget of Mayor Tim Rogers’ administration.
Reaching from June 1, 2023 – May 1, 2024, the Village’s fiscal year works in tandem with the state budget process. When the Village reaches the point of closing their public hearings on its budget, the state will have already passed its budget for the state fiscal year, allowing for the Village to make necessary changes according to what the state passed.
The 0% change was proposed in accordance with Rogers’ goal of keeping the Village of New Paltz property taxes low, as he has done six times prior. A 0% change or 0% increase budget means that there is complete spending of allocated money over the course of the fiscal year, thus meeting both financial demands and goals. This year’s 0% increase budget includes a “year over year” increase in expenses offset by budgeted increase in revenue. In addition, the tentative budget worked in a uniform percent-increase in salaries for staff, union members and elected officials.
This salary increase for public workers such as the mayor, deputy mayor and board of trustees was designed to reflect those of other municipal workers in areas of similar sizes. Through his active position on the New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM), Rogers found that salaries in places reflective of the Village of New Paltz’s size are “all over the map on a per capita basis.”
The New Paltz Village mayoral salary raise to $60,255 coincides with other mayors of the same nature. Rogers argues this would work to give the mayor more liberty, authority and “ability to dedicate time and effort” while in the position.
Two main components of the proposed budget were discussed at the budget meeting on March 22 by the Board of Trustees. The first issue explained was regarding the fire department cost per call budget, for which $1.17 million was allocated. A function of how many calls were in the village, college and mutual aid calls shared between the Village and Town, this amount is planned to be split between the two.
Costs per call vary by nature; a call made for nuisance alarms will not cost as much as a structure fire that lasts for hours. Last year, 716 calls were made to the fire department. Within the proposed budget, calls of all kinds will be covered securely within the $1.17 million. The Village will pay for 51.6%, with taxpayers covering the majority of calls made in the village and on the SUNY New Paltz campus. While the Village does pay for on-campus calls, the Town covers calls made on the thruway and therefore both parties have taxpayers covering calls from outside their residences.
The second topic explored was the operations of the 0% increase budget. When Village municipalities received a large amount of money through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), a 0% tax increase budget was made possible. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 worked to deliver direct relief in an economy recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Village did not put any of the ARP money toward the General Fund. The General Fund is the main source of funds for local governments, including operations not specified in separate funds. Most taxes collected by local governments and most public spending can be found within the General Fund.
The money received through the ARP was instead used on the Water Fund, which is separate from the general fund. The Water Fund is found most commonly among local governments in cities and villages that maintain their own water systems, such as the Village of New Paltz. Thus, the 0% tax increase did not receive the “tailwind of the ARP money,” according to the Board of Trustees.
However, the Village is applying to receive aid from Ulster County. The county received $33 million in aid from the ARP — some of which went to county programs and projects. The rest has been set aside for local municipalities. The Village was awarded $500,000 of ARP money from the county sheriff for water projects, which will go toward a new water main on North Chestnut Street once the project is bid out later this year.
Along with directing ARP money toward local projects, Ulster County is having a special opportunity regarding funding for parks. Municipalities can apply for $100,000 from the county, which will also be matched locally, that will be put specifically toward parks. The Village plans to apply for some of this ARP money to put toward the basketball and pickleball courts across the street from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Rogers hopes to use the money to replace the retaining wall and fencing which is currently managed by the Village of New Paltz’s Department of Public Works.
Local budgets operate in twofold — as a financial plan for projects and programs within the village and as the main policy document for local politics. All productions requiring resources from the local government will be featured in proposed budgets. Thus, priorities are demonstrated through budgets because of how limited funds tend to be in smaller governments. Legal blocks such as tax limits and political obstacles such as acceptable tax and fee standards set by voters have to be balanced throughout all demands made.