The Rhinebeck village tentative budget for 2014-15 appears to be coming in very close to last year’s, with a similar tax increase.
After its final workshop April 2, the village board cut another $36,000 from the budget, about 2 percent, to end up at a 4.89 percent tax levy increase, which exceeds their state-mandated cap of 1.7 percent.
The total budget expenditures for 2014-15 are estimated at $2,307,943, which is about 2 percent, or $48,066, higher than last year’s $2,259,877. It will require raising $1,547,654 in taxes, $67,980 more than last year’s $1,479,674.
That will translate to a tax-per-thousand rate of $4.07.
Interim Mayor Heath Tortarella told the Observer that the board could have brought the tax levy close to the tax cap by drawing on reserve funds in the fund balance, as the village has done in the three prior years when it took $100,000 two years in a row and then $50,000 to offset tax increases.
But, he added, “that’s not really a sustainable way to move forward… we’re trying to maintain a good reserve fund.”
He estimated the fund balance will be about $372,000 at the end of this fiscal year, which would be within the range that the State Comptroller recommends for municipalities.
Last year, the village ended its trash service, and the new budget reflects a decrease in revenue of $13,000 as a result, with no balancing cost decrease because the village Highway Department employees who used to perform the service are still there, tasked with other work.
In addition, bond payments for the police station ($12,940 a year until 2033) and the ground it sits on ($45,900 until 2022) continue as added costs. Last year, the 4.9 percent tax increase was blamed on the police station bonds, which former Mayor Jim Reardon said accounted for about 2 percent of the budget.
Some of the increases in next year’s budget include a $5,000 hike in the tree trimming line, to $15,000. So far this year, the village has spent $15,000 and plans on another $5,000 before the end of the fiscal year because at least 6-7 trees need attention, according to Trustee Howie Traudt.
Tortarella said the board also heard that workers’ compensation rates, which are set by the state, could go up as much as 20-25 percent, so that budget line has gone from $75,000 this year to $90,000 for next, though the actual numbers on the rate will not be available from the state until June.
Since the negotiations on the fire department contract between the town board and the village board are still ongoing, the figure used to estimate the revenue received from town taxpayers for this service is not firm. Last year, the revenue from the town was $169,000. In October, the village board requested that the town board consider a larger number, about $187,000.
After the latest village budget workshop and in light of the negotiations that have occurred so far with the town, the village board agreed to amend its request to $174,410 from the town. They accomplished the lower amount, which is $5,000 higher than last year’s, by slashing this year’s initial estimate of the fire department budget by $13,000. The request would fund about 51 percent of the fire department budget. Tortarella said he is not sure that there will be an agreement between the town and village before the budget is approved.
The board has set public hearings for both the tax cap override and the budget for April 14 at 7pm. By state law, the budget must be approved by May 1; the new fiscal year will start June 1.
Tortarella acknowledged this year’s budget process was made more difficult by the economic landscape and the resignation of Reardon, who was also chief financial officer, at the beginning of the budget process in January.
Still, Tortarella said the board’s experience helped them make the required decisions. “We knew it was going to be a challenge to get through it with all those changes… Everyone really stepped up. The interim clerk and treasurer really helped out a lot, and it went better than expected,” he said.