Already facing budget challenges under the state’s “2% tax cap”, the Rhinebeck town board passed resolutions at their Oct.22 board meeting opposing Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro’s proposed budget plan that would take and additional $56,000 in expected revenues away from the town, an amount equal to 2.4% of the current town budget tax levy.
As part of his effort to fill the county’s projected $40 million budget deficit, Molinaro’s plan calls for a 15% immediate reduction in the amount of sales tax revenue shared with the cities, towns and villages and for that number to be capped – never to increase in the future as the economy recovers and sales improve. That could mean $51,000 less for Rhinebeck in 2013 alone.
The board passed the resolution opposing the sales tax plan 4-1. Voting to support the resolution were Rhinebeck Town Councilpersons Gina Fox, Joe Gelb, Elizabeth Spinzia, and Bruce Washburn. Rhinebeck Town Supervisor Tom Traudt voted against the resolution.
“I think it’s important to protest this move by the County Executive to fix an unfortunate County budget situation on the backs of the towns,” said Fox.
The plan also creates a longer-term issue with the hard cap.
“The main point is that the cap formula is unfair,” said Spinzia. “I’m here to protect our constituents and our interests. If the County Legislature supports Marc Molinaro’s plan, when things get better, we won’t have a sip of cream.”
Rhinebeck’s county legislator Joel Tyner is also opposed to the plan.
“I am opposed to Mr. Molinaro’s plan to just pass the buck for funding necessary and punish the county’s towns and villages,” said Tyner.
The Rhinebeck town supervisor was supportive of the county executive’s efforts to fix the budget problem and voted against the resolution.
“I applaud the county executive,” said Traudt. “This is about sustainability for the county… He is trying to work with us to lower the impact.”
One proposal to help reduce the impact of the sales tax changes is for more shared services but Rhinebeck was recently informed they would be receiving a cut in that area as well. The county has told Rhinebeck that after more than 20 years, it will no longer be paying the town to plow and sand River Rd., a loss of another approximately $5,000 in revenue to the town.
Rhinebeck Highway Superintendent Kathy Kinsella is concerned about how waiting for county plows and trucks may affect safety on River Rd.
“[River Road] is a major route from the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, a main route to the Amtrak station for commuters, carries traffic to and from Northern Dutchess Hospital, and connects two state roads,” said Kinsella. “But several large areas of open meadows make it susceptible to drift conditions. Because the Town already has plow routes in the immediate vicinity of River Road, we can be there quickly when the need arises.”
“I am concerned that adding River Road to an existing County plow route could mean a longer lapse in service for users of that road,” she added.
The board also passed a resolution in opposition to the plowing cutbacks at their Oct. 22 meeting, with the same four members voting in favor and Traudt abstaining.
“I think we need to protest the hypocrisy of [offering] shared services, then taking it away,” said Washburn.
With the state-mandated “2% tax cap” on one side and the county cuts on the other, Rhinebeck’s leaders are facing hard choices as they work to shape the 2013 budget.
The tentative budget proposed by the supervisor in early October, the starting point for hammering out the final numbers, called for a 13% increase in the town portion of the tax levy. The proposal called for a 2.8% spending increase on the town portion of the budget, which combined with expectations of reduced revenues, creates the potential for a significant tax hike.
According to a town notices, the salaries of the elected officials will be $20,000 for the town supervisor, $5,753 for the four councilpersons, $11,140 for the assessor chairman, $9,721 for two assessors, $57,000 for the highway superintendent and $13,160 for each town justice.
Budget workshops are continuing and a final budget was expected to be filed Tuesday in time for a public hearing today at 10am at Rhinebeck Town Hall.