The Saugerties Town Board was expected to approve a $400,000 increase to town taxes to pay for Safety Net charges not included in the budget passed last month.
Ulster County Commissioner of Finance Burton Gulnick says the town should have known it would face this expense, which covers the town’s share of social services, and should have budgeted for it in the first place.
The vote was held Wednesday, Dec. 12 after the Saugerties Times went to press.
The issue seems to be the result of a miscommunication between Saugerties and the county regarding a change in the way safety net charges were collected. (Though other counties did not have a problem.) In previous years, the county adjusted town property tax bills after towns passed their budgets to pay for safety net costs. This year, the county decided that it would no longer do this, and instead asked towns to include the costs in their budgets. The costs for taxpayers wouldn’t change, but the budget process needed to.
Supervisor Kelly Myers said the town wasn’t informed of the change until three days before it had to pass its budget. Gulnick confirmed that was when the final numbers were sent to towns, but said the towns were told they needed to leave room in their budgets for safety net charges much earlier, in October.
Ulster County’s towns and the city of Kingston pay Safety Net costs based on how many participants in the program live in the communities. Ulster is the only county in the state that passes the local share of the program’s cost on to municipalities. Elsewhere, the counties themselves pay the tab.
Ulster County is gradually moving toward a county takeover of Safety Net charges, with one-third of the total being transferred to the county in each of the next three years.
The budget passed last month totals $16.5 million. Property taxes to fund the budget total $12.1 million, and generated a tax rate increase of 2.6 percent – which was below the cap because the town received a credit based on the fact that prior year’s taxes were below the cap.
Under the existing budget, town residents would pay $6.32 per $1,000 of assessed value. The additional payment the town must pay the county would increase that to $6.54 per $1,000, an additional $101 for a town resident owning a house assessed at the average of $208551, whose tax bill would increase by $101, from $1239 to $1340.. The village rate would increase from $4.28 per $1,000 to $4.51 per $1,000, and the owner of a typical home would see an increase from $818 to $915, an additional $97.