At its Dec. 17 meeting, the City of Poughkeepsie Common Council unanimously approved the 2021 budget, remaining under the tax cap for the fourth consecutive year. 

The city’s property tax levy will increase by 1.58%. But tax rates have actually gone down as assessed values have risen. A resident with a home valued at $100,000 will pay $1,252 in 2021, compared to $1,324 in 2020 and the owner of a rental or non-residential property assessed at $100,000 will pay $1,644 in 2021, compared to $1,716 in 2020.

Sarah Salem, Chair of the Common Council, told the Hudson Valley Observer that with the current climate in Washington, the council is prepared to act if the situation changes.

“I’m proud that we unanimously passed a budget that lowers the tax rates and maintains all existing services; however, we must remain alert,” said Salem. “We’re ready to make any necessary changes going forward as we respond to the challenges brought on by these uncertain times and the needs of our community.”

Essentially unchanged from Mayor Rob Rolison’s proposals, the 2021 budget projects a $447,840 decrease, or 4.7%, in sales tax revenues due to the COVID-19-related economic slowdowns and an increase in the cost of employee benefits of $1.3 million.

“Overall, I felt like it was a pretty good budget. In the fact, there were no layoffs and our essential services are still intact,” said Ward 5 Councilmember Yvonne Flowers. “I’m satisfied with it.”

The 2021 plan has no layoffs but includes a number of positions that will remain vacant to reduce spending while the city hopes for restored state and federal funding. The city announced last week that it is facing a $1 million shortfall for 2020.

“[W]e have every right to seek — and every hope to receive — meaningful assistance from Washington…,” wrote Rolison when putting forward the budget in mid-October.

The federal relief bill passed on Dec. 20 includes no direct aid for state and local governments. The budget assumes the city will receive $1 million in Federal COVID relief for 2021.

In city services, 2021 will see the first increase in water rates since 2015, from $4.30 to $4.70 per 100 cubic feet, following what the mayor called “exceptionally strong investments in infrastructure and treatment technologies.” However, the minimum usage charge for water customers will drop by 12% per year.

Garbage pickup fees will also rise in 2021, from $384 per year to $480 per year.

“We are forced to raise sanitation rates by slightly less than $100 per year for the average family, but doing so assures the continuation of twice weekly pick-up, seasonal yard debris pickup and once-weekly recycling,” said Rolison. “This increase will also help finance our recent purchase of a new sanitation truck and a new city street sweeper.”

UPDATE: Mayor Rolison has 10 days to veto one budget amendment that moved $100,000 within the budget to enable the council to hire legal representation. Any veto is subject to an override vote by the council.

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