The Red Hook Town Board adopted a 2021 budget on Oct. 14 that keeps the town’s property tax rate flat for the fifth consecutive year.

The town budget of $4.3 million assumes that the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will reduce sales taxes and other revenues by more than $250,000.

Homes assessed at the median of $295,000 will pay $364 in the town, $311 in the villages. Village homeowners pay less because the village government provides some overlapping services.

Red Hook took steps to reduce hours and staff across most departments earlier in 2020 in the hopes of avoiding deeper cuts in the 2021 budget, according to Town Supervisor Robert McKeon. The 2021 budget maintains current staffing levels and wages without pulling money from the fund balance, the so-called “rainy day fund.”

Red Hook estimates a combined unappropriated fund balance of $1.75 million.

The NYS Comptroller discourages use of fund balances for long-term structural budget problems and most economists expect the post-COVID recovery to take years.

“Our hope would be that as a vaccine is developed… that we would start to see some improvement in the local economy and see the figures go up for our local businesses,” said McKeon during the budget hearing on Oct. 14. 

Town property taxes are a fraction of residential property taxes, comprising about 8% of the overall property tax bill.

According to the town’s budget presentation, Red Hook has been able to implement a “living wage” of at least $17 an hour for its employees while also making significant community investments, including the Route 9 sidewalks, renovating the recreational parks, efficiency projects and community solar. All were funded in part by federal, state and county grants and savings from the town’s 2016 debt refinancing.

“We will continue to monitor our fiscal strength, our revenue and expenses during the course of 2021, and certainly as we finish the fiscal year 2020,” said McKeon.

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