The New Paltz town budget is going to hit taxpayers with close to an eight percent increase, the result of a perfect storm of declining revenues, a shrinking fund balance to cushion tax hikes and skyrocketing fixed costs. The final figures show a total spending plan of $11.9 million, with $8.45 million being raised through property taxes. The overall budget is up about half a million dollars from last year, or 4.4%, but the tax levy will rise 7.87% because there’s less with which to offset it.
Supervisor Neil Bettez explained that even things that were good news when they occurred can create budget challenges in the future. Case in point: a new cell tower lease was negotiated last year, resulting in a large lump-sum payment which was socked away to spend on the next town hall. However, the old lease provided $25,000 annually, which now just isn’t there. The fund balance, which money left over from year to year that serves as a rainy-day fund, is about as small as the law will allow, meaning that the amount to be used to reduce the tax levy was $66,000 less than for 2016.
In addition, a number of expenses are on the rise. Several contracts with unionized employees were settled with those members receiving raises, which Bettez feels are just but still must be paid for. Health care continues to be a costly challenge, as well: the most recent bill included an increase of more than $30,000, and board members worked feverishly at the table identifying cuts to offset that nasty surprise.
Council member Marty Irwin attempted to increase the budget twice, once to cover costs of creating a master plan, and once to cover the costs of repairing Moriello Pool entirely from town funds, as Mayor Tim Rogers has indicated he would prefer that method. Both motions failed.