Town budget calling for 2% tax hike

Hyde Park’s proposed budget for 2014 calls for a modest property tax increase of 2 percent in a budget that shows a similar increase over this year.

The proposed budget, little changed since it was first presented in October, calls for a total operating cost of $8,833,639. Of that amount, approximately $5.5 million, or 65 percent of the proposed budget, would be raised through property taxes.

That means a 2 percent overall property tax increase, which will boost the current tax rate of $6.09 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to a projected $6.21 per thousand. That translates to an increase of $16.80 for a typical residential property assessed at $140,000.

The budget was to be presented Nov. 18 at a public hearing. Barring any last-minute changes, the town board was then expected to pass the budget, which will show a 2.5 percent net operating increase over this year’s budget.

Comptroller Tom Carey was expected to present two minor alterations to the preliminary budget. Each change would affect the special districts of Greenfields sewer and Quaker Lane ambulance and were not expected to change the final town operating budget figures.

At a Nov. 4 public hearing on the preliminary figures, Hyde Park Supervisor Aileen Rohr opened the floor for discussion, but no one in the sparse audience stirred.

A $218,639 expenditure increase includes $154,000 in contractual expenses and $54,000 in employee benefits and compensation. The bulk of anticipated revenues to cover these costs will come from the increased property taxes and the town-wide equity fund.

Last year’s tax increase was 4 percent, and in 2012 it was 20 percent.

At the October meeting when he first presented the budget, Carey pointed out that the total assessed valuation of town properties had improved by $4 million, partly because of the opening of the new Stop & Shop, Rondout Savings Bank and Dunkin’ Donuts on Route 9, as well as other new commercial and residential construction.

But, he noted, the increase was offset by the lowering of key revenue sources, mainly mortgage taxes, sales tax, and building permit fees. The mortgage tax revenue estimate is $320,000, down from the 2012 figure of $350,000, and building permits fell $40,000, from $121,000 to $71,000. The deepest drop in revenue, however, appears in sales taxes, falling from $1,179,640 in 2012 to a projected estimate of $975,941 for 2014.

The board also expects to use $141,000 from the town’s fund balance, leaving it with approximately $750,000.

At the Nov. 4 meeting Carey provided some more good news and bad news.

On the upside, he said health insurance costs for employees would rise between 4 and 5 percent next year compared to the 10 percent to 15 percent increases in recent years. He did not explain why there was such a difference.

On the flip side, Carey said, “We expect that workman’s compensation increases could jump by $40-$50,000 dollars, so we are checking on a different carrier, including joining the county collaborative.”

Employee compensation and benefits make up 62 percent of the operating budget; the Police Department portion represents 25.3 percent of the total, and the Highway Department 28 percent.

Salaries for elected officials were also increased in the budget.

The supervisor and town board members’ salaries were restored to their 2011 levels, which means Rohr, who was just re-elected, goes from $19,000 this year to $24,500 next year and board members go from $5,000 this year to $7,500 in 2014. Town Justices will receive $31,000 each, and the Highway Superintendent will earn $70,000 in 2014. The Town Clerk’s salary was set at $44,000 and the Receiver of Taxes at $31,827.

At its October meeting, the town board also passed Local Law 3 for 2013, which will allow it to override the state’s mandated 1.66 percent property tax cap in order to pass its budget.

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